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Students insist Sunday rally will be peaceful
DPP leaders to join in private capacity
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-03-29 03:07 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Students reiterated that the 100,000 expected in front of the Presidential Office Building Sunday would hold a peaceful protest against the trade-in-services pact with China and against police brutality.

The event, to take place on Ketagalan Boulevard and near the Legislative Yuan, which the students have occupied since March 18, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. It might end at 7 p.m., but some students have called for an open-ended occupation until President Ma Ying-jeou concedes to their demands.

The students want the government to withdraw the trade pact from legislative consideration, while an overall framework law guiding negotiations with China should be approved first and a citizens’ constitutional conference should be called.

Social activists emphasized that Sunday’s protesters should not only wear black to express their opposition to the trade accord, but also to condemn what they described as state violence. After a group of students invaded the Executive Yuan on March 23, riot police used water cannons and baton charges to expel them. There have been varying accounts of how many officers and protesters were injured, with students producing footage of police brutality against individuals.

Movement leaders said Sunday’s event would be an unprecedented sign of solidarity and democracy, with sympathizers in 45 cities across the world also coming out for sit-ins and rallies to show their concern for the cause. The New York Times was featuring an ad supporting the students two days in a row.

The students called on all participants to use non-violent means of protest, but also asked the authorities and the police to show self-restraint. They said that after the rally was over, the students would return to the Legislative Yuan and continue their occupation indefinitely.

Military police denied media reports that they would use plastic bullets if protesters invaded the Presidential Office Building. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party mayors of Tainan and Kaohsiung said they would oppose the redeployment of local police officers to the capital for the event. In Taipei, at least 2,000 police were being prepared to guard a security zone which was expanded to include the president’s official residence a couple of blocks away from his office, reports said.

As the weekend started, more students from across the country arrived at the Legislature to join in the action for two days. “Society is a big tree, we are the leaves,” a student from Providence University in Taichung told the occupiers.

Student leader Lin Fei-fan rebutted media reports about a meeting with university presidents to discuss how the occupation of the Legislative Yuan should end. The reports were just another attempt by Ma to try and sow discord within the student movement, but the only result was that what little was left of mutual confidence might dissipate, Lin said. Earlier, the activists also condemned the leaking of a meeting between a senior presidential aide and a movement leader.

On the political scene, the main leaders of the DPP said they would take part in Sunday’s rally, though Chairman Su Tseng-chang warned party members not to wear clothes or carry signs which might be interpreted as part of the campaign for the year-end local elections.

Su, former chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, ex-premiers Frank Hsieh and Yu Shyi-kun and former Vice President Annette Lu would all take part, reports said. The current chairman would not alert the media to the time and place of his arrival at the scene and would only participate as a private citizen, the DPP said.

Tsai’s aides said she would show up in black clothes according to the students’ request, but she would not make any speeches.

DPP Taipei City mayoral contender Wellington Koo, a prominent attorney, said he would join a delegation of lawyers to attend the event. Attorneys have promised to assist students in their cases against alleged police brutality. Koo also praised the occupiers for being ahead of the curve, and warned that the DPP would not necessarily profit from recent events if it failed to take the initiative.

Another opposition contender for mayor, physician Ko Wen-je, said he would assist other doctors and nurses to provide eventual aid for protesters feeling unwell.

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