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KMT attempt to review China trade pact fails
Protesters targeted with pebbles from roof
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-02 02:45 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The opposition Democratic Progressive Party prevented an attempt by ruling Kuomintang lawmakers Wednesday to review the trade-in-services pact with China.

Chen Wei-ting, one of the leaders of the students occupying the Legislature since March 18 in protest against the trade accord, was hauled away by police as he tried to intervene in the meeting.

The student protest began after KMT lawmaker Chang Ching-chung stated that a promised clause-by-clause review and vote on the trade pact was over after 30 seconds on March 17.

The students have since demanded the passage of an overall framework law to guide negotiations with China before the trade pact is put on the agenda again, but the KMT tried to launch the review again on Wednesday morning.

DPP lawmakers took positions outside the meeting room to prevent their ruling party colleagues from entering. At the same time, the students occupying the Legislature had called for members of the public to show up outside and besiege the compound. About 1,000 people heeded their call, reports said.

As Chang was being interviewed at the legislative compound, Chen approached him and called out at him to respect public opinion instead of President Ma Ying-jeou’s opinion. He also asked the lawmaker to sign a promise acceding to the students’ demands. Two police officers grappled with Chen and carried him inside the assembly hall, where most of the occupiers have been staying.

The DPP argued that the meeting was illegal because an earlier committee meeting, attended only by opposition lawmakers, had voted to send the trade pact back to the Cabinet.

As a result of the failed action, Chang officially changed the agenda for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s committee sessions from the trade pact to laws concerning political donations and elections in indigenous areas.

An estimated 500,000 protesters gathered in front of the Presidential Office Building last Sunday to voice their support for the students, while on Tuesday former gang leader Chang An-lo took a protest against the students to the doors of the Legislative Yuan.

Students on a street outside the Legislative Yuan complained Wednesday of having had pebbles thrown at them from the roof of a nearby building. Police were investigating the case, reports said.

During the afternoon, a group of about 50 protesters emerged outside the national headquarters of the KMT as the ruling party was beginning the regular weekly meeting of its Central Standing Committee. Clashes erupted as police sought to contain the activists to the sidewalk opposite the building.

One of the items on the CSC agenda was the discussion of the proposed framework law for negotiations with China. On the eve of last Sunday’s protest, Ma agreed to the passage of a such an act, but not to the students’ demand that it should happen before the review of the trade-in-services agreement can begin.

A full legislative caucus meeting of the KMT is also expected to discuss the same issue later Wednesday, with the Executive Yuan reportedly planning to approve a version at its regular Thursday morning meeting.

The students also accused Ma of going back on his promise to meet with their representatives. He had originally invited a delegation from the occupiers to talk, but student leader Lin Fei-fan said Wednesday that the president was setting up too many preconditions for such an encounter to take place.

A panel set up by the occupiers showing the portraits of all lawmakers was changed Wednesday to show Ma’s picture for the about 65 KMT legislators who had not signed the promise to agree to the students’ demands.

Student leaders Chen and Lin could also soon face legal action as police began considering allegations filed against them, reports said. The Taipei District Prosecutors Office had received several complaints and accusations in connection with the occupation of the Legislative Yuan and would soon start investigating them, with questioning of Chen and Lin a possibility, according to media reports.

Earlier, investigations also started into the short overnight occupation of the Executive Yuan which started on March 23. The event ended with riot police charging the students with batons and water cannons, leading to accusations of police brutality. Premier Jiang Yi-huah on Wednesday visited the National Police Agency headquarters to praise the officers’ performance during the protests.

During questioning by lawmakers Wednesday, Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai said she gave the occupiers 100 percent for their organization and international public relations, but she nevertheless still called on them to withdraw from the Legislature because they were violating the rule of law, which was the basis for democracy.

The students had put the focus of public attention on the trade pact, but now was the time to begin reflection, the minister said. She wondered which parts of the trade accord the students were against, and whether they opposed other secretive negotiation processes such as talks between the caucuses at the Legislative Yuan.

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