U.S. calls on Taiwan protesters to act 'responsibly'
Central News Agency
2014-04-04 09:54 AM
Washington, April 3 (CNA) The United States on Thursday described the ongoing protests in Taiwan over a trade-in-services agreement with China as a reflection of Taiwan's "very robust democracy" but urged protesters to use their freedom of expression "responsibly." The protests show that Taiwan is a very open society with a high tolerance for the expression of political views, in which debate is not only allowed but encouraged, said Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. "Now obviously the United States very much hopes that the students and demonstrators will use that freedom responsibly, that they will behave in a civil and in a peaceful manner, and certainly to avoid violence," Russel said when answering a senator's questions during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Russel said the controversy over the cross-Taiwan Strait trade pact is partly linked to mixed views in Taiwan on the pace and scope of agreements being reached with China.

The United States welcomes the remarkable progress achieved in cross-strait relations under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou, as evidenced by a productive and deep dialogue going on between the two sides, he said. "We don't, however, take a view on any particular agreement and we believe strongly that the pace and the scope of movement in cross-strait discussion must be one that is in accord with the comfort level and the wishes of the people on both sides of the strait," he added.

In his remarks, Russel added that Beijing also deserves credit for the progress that has occurred in cross-strait relations over the last six years. Russel was commenting for the first time on the student-led movement in Taiwan, dubbed the Sunflower Movement by some media outlets. Hundreds of student-led activists have occupied Taiwan's legislature since storming into the building on March 18, making various demands over the service trade pact which Taiwan signed with China in June 2013.

Their latest demands include shelving the legislative review of the agreement, which has not yet taken effect, until a new law mandating full oversight of cross-strait agreements is enacted. Some of the protesters broke into the Executive Yuan late March 23 but were dispersed by riot police hours later. In an attempt to step up their pressure on the government, the students expanded to a massive rally in front of the Presidential Office on March 30. Organizers claimed half a million people took part in the event, which ended peacefully. Police said the number of participants was 116,000 at its peak. (By Tony Liao and Y.F. Low)

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