Protesters in front of Presidential Office leave peacefully
Central News Agency
2014-03-30 09:45 PM
Taipei, March 30 (CNA) Participants in a Sunday mass rally staged in front of the Presidential Office and surrounding streets dispersed in a peaceful manner after one of the student leaders who initiated the demonstration called an end to the gathering and urged them to attend the protests at the Legislature. Lin Fei-fan, a student representative of the protesters who have been occupying the Legislature for almost two weeks in protest against the trade-in-services agreement with China, addressed the rally in front of the Presidential Office. He led the crowd in chanting slogans, including urging President Ma Ying-jeou to respond positively to their demands. "Withdraw the services trade pact" and "enact legislation before the review," the crowd chanted. Lin also reiterated the students' demands, which include the halting of the legislative process of the pact, that a law be drawn up to closely monitor all agreements with China and that a "civic constitutional meeting" be held to address the current crisis. He also expressed heartfelt gratitude for those who stood up in support of their calls, while encouraging the participants to greet the people standing next to them and exchange contact information. Thus, they can call each other and work out shifts in which they can take turns joining the protest at the Legislature as part of the continuing occupation of the Legislature, Lin said. The rally, which started at 1 p.m., was scheduled to end at 7 p.m. but did not end until around 7:45 p.m. after Lin finished his speech. The rally was initiated by the student-led protesters who have occupied the Legislature since March 18. The trade-in-services pact, a follow-up pact to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed between Taiwan and China, was inked last June but is now stalled in the process of a legislative review. According to the police, the rally in front of the Presidential Office and also the protesters gathered at the Legislature and nearby streets was estimated to be up to 116,000, although the organizers claimed that some 500,000 people participated. In a press conference a day earlier, Ma expressed support for a proposal by the protesters that a law be enacted to subject all agreements with China to close scrutiny, but rejected their demand that the legislative process of the pact be halted until such an oversight mechanism is legalized. The students were dissatisfied with Ma's response, seeing it as a failure to meet their demands, and pledged to continue with their demonstration. The protesters are worried that the pact will give China too much economic influence over Taiwan and hurt the country's small- and medium-sized enterprises. The government, on the other hand, argues that the service pact will benefit Taiwan's economy and help it join other regional free trade blocs. (By Elaine Hou)
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