Taipei, April 2 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou
drew a proverbial line in the sand Wednesday over the trade-in-services pact with China
, saying that while he could accept some of the demands lodged by student protesters, he will not budge on their call to withdraw the agreement from the Legislature. "We are not uncompromising," but on key issues like taking the services pact out of lawmakers' hands, "we cannot yield," Ma said in his capacity as chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT
) during a meeting of the ruling party's Central Standing Committee, according to people who attended the meeting. Calling the pact a major policy, Ma reportedly said he will stand firm despite the calls from protesters, who have occupied the Legislative Yuan since March 18, to shelve the pact until a law governing oversight of cross-strait agreements is passed. He was quoted as saying that he plans to work with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, also a member of the KMT
, to resolve the stalemate over the pact "because we are in the right, and we will continue to make efforts to effect change bit by bit." "We can accept the demands of the students as long as they don't run counter to our ideals," Ma was quoted. He stressed that he has publicly offered seven times to hold a dialogue with the students and that the services pact with China
has built-in "brake" mechanisms, sources said. During the meeting, members of the Central Standing Committee reportedly called for Wang's assistance in evicting the student protesters "in a manner conforming to the law" to end their occupation that has stalled legislative functions for more than two full weeks. Since 50 percent of respondents in an opinion poll said they support the removal of the students, committee members said, they are confident the public would support such a move, according to participants. They did not indicate which opinion poll to which they were referring. Earlier in the day, Lin Fei-fan, the self-styled "commander" of the student protesters, said he would only agree to dialogue if lawmakers are granted the ability to make changes to the controversial pact -- something Ma's administration has explicitly refused. Lin criticized what he called a high threshold set by Ma of putting "the current version of the services pact into effect" without any room for revision.
The administration has said it is open to an item-by-item review of the pact, signed in June last year, but is not willing to renegotiate its contents with China even if lawmakers want to make changes. (By Lee Shu-hua and Lilian Wu)