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China trade pact supporters protest against occupiers
Former gang leader describes students as 'bandits'
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-01 03:05 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Clashes erupted outside the Legislative Yuan Tuesday as followers of a former gang leader protested against the students who have occupied the site since March 18 in a protest against the trade-in-services pact with China.

After an estimated 500,000 people rallied in support of the students Sunday, Chang An-lo, an ex-leader of the Bamboo Union organized crime group who formed a radical pro-unification alliance, said he would send in 2,000 people to take back the Legislative Yuan.

Officially, the Tuesday afternoon protest was organized by labor groups who say jobs might be threatened if the Legislative Yuan listens to the students and does not approve the trade pact.

Arriving outside the Legislature, Chang, who goes by the nickname the “White Wolf,” told reporters that thanks to the trade accord, Taiwanese business people could gain a foothold in a market of 1.3 billion consumers. He rebutted claims that he was in favor of the agreement because he could benefit personally.

Chang first described the occupiers as “bandits” because they occupied the Legislature and checked the identity of people who wanted to enter the complex, but he also denied his group would use violence against the students. “The students are our children too,” he said. Chang faulted the authorities for allowing the occupation to last so long and accused student leaders of misleading the public.

As his supporters waved national flags and shouted slogans, tensions mounted, with police officers with shields and helmets taking in positions to keep the two groups apart. Participants in the protest wore red headbands with the words “I want the service trade pact, I want work, I want to survive.” Students and their supporters, including Taipei City councilors from the Democratic Progressive Party, shouted “Organized crime, get back” or brandished placards reading “The wolf is coming, but I am not afraid.” From noon, police only allowed people to leave the Legislative Yuan but not to enter.

Chang wanted to organize a meeting between three representatives from each side, but the attempt failed. Students came out and said the occupiers respected the outside protesters’ wide range of opinions before turning back into the Legislative Yuan, reports said.

Police reportedly took away one member of Chang’s protest group after fights erupted with the other side. A student who found himself in the middle of a crowd of Chang supporters was beaten, while a shoe was thrown at the former gang leader’s head, reports said. Chang announced the dispersal of his protest at 5 p.m., but added he would be back.

After Chang addressed the crowds from the top of a loudspeaker truck, student leader Lin Fei-fan said the former gang leader was making demands from the wrong people. Instead of approaching the students, he should talk to the government, he said. The students had no power and had been forced by the government to take to the streets, according to Lin.

Since the occupation started, several incidents were reported with youths apparently belonging to motorcycle gangs attacking students. Chang also appeared at the scene one evening, media reports said, linking him to the aggressors.

There were also reports that supporters of the trade pact wanted to besiege the home of Lin’s parents, leading police to step up security.

The government said it would not allow people to combat violence with violence and to enter the Legislative Yuan to make the situation even more complicated.

On March 23, a limited group of students tried to occupy the Executive Yuan as well but they were dislodged by riot police using batons and water cannons the following morning. The confrontation resulted in accusations of police brutality and excessive violence.

On Tuesday morning, a group of students visited the Control Yuan next door to hand over a petition with more than 2,000 signatures asking for the impeachment of both Premier Jiang Yi-huah and national police chief Wang Cho-chiun as punishment for the violence they allegedly used against the protests.

Chen Ting-hao, a member of the Black Island Nation Youth Front, one of the key organizers of the occupation, was freed on bail of NT$50,000 (US$1,600) after being accused of being one of the masterminds of the Executive Yuan action. Student leaders said they supported him and the premier was wrong. Social movements were innocent, so prosecutors should not misuse the judiciary to turn protesters into hooligans, student leaders said.

Taiwan and China signed the trade deal last June 21, but it was not until March that the Legislative Yuan prepared to conduct a promised clause-by-clause review and vote. When the ruling Kuomintang caucus skipped the review, students entered the Legislature during the evening of March 18 and occupied the main assembly hall. They want the government to withdraw the trade pact from legislative consideration, have lawmakers approve an overall framework law guiding negotiations with China, and have President Ma Ying-jeou call a citizens’ constitutional conference.

During a news conference on the eve of Sunday’s mass rally, Ma said he could concede on the framework law and the conference, but he could not allow the government to withdraw the trade pact.

After Sunday’s protests, student leaders said they would continue their occupation until the president gave in to their demands.

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