Students end 24-day occupation
Leaders promise to keep monitoring progress
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-10 07:38 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The students who entered the Legislative Yuan on March 18 to protest against the trade-in-services pact with China ended their 24-day occupation on a peaceful note Thursday night.

The hundreds of activists left after 6 p.m. the way they came in, through a side door of the compound, holding sunflowers and wearing black T-shirts, as a crowd of an estimated 22,300 people greeted them. The official ending of the occupation was followed by a rally on neighboring Chinan Street, while police entered and closed off the buildings at 6:28 p.m., reports said. The students and their sympathizers listened to speeches and songs and waved their sunflowers and cell phones to create waves of light in the evening darkness.

Mainstream student leaders Chen Wei-ting and Lin Fei-fan had first closed off the 585 hours of occupation by addressing their fellow students inside the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber.

“This was not just a student movement, but a movement which belonged to all citizens,” Chen said. “This student movement belongs to everybody.” He also described the turnout of 500,000 people at the March 30 rally as “unforgettable.”

“Even though we haven’t succeeded yet, we haven’t lost either,” the student leader said.

Chen, who earlier said the exit did not equal a full stop, predicted the students would continue to monitor political developments and would return if politics turned against the people again.

Lin also warned the government not to tear up its promises again. The occupation of the Legislature was only the prologue, but if there needed to be an epilogue, it would be an even more complete and wider protest, he said. The next chapter would develop in society at large, according to Lin.

“The March 18 occupation of the chamber continued Taiwan’s 100-year-old spirit of resistance,” he said. “Taiwan is our biggest responsibility. The country, whether its government or its Legislature, should belong to the people.”

Once the occupiers left, they would still monitor the progress of the framework law for trade talks with China, the trade-in-services pact and the organization of a citizens’ constitutional conference. Lin said he was also planning to travel around the country and learn to know “each face of the 500,000 people” who came out in the students’ support last March 30.

The students called on President Ma Ying-jeou and on Premier Jiang Yi-huah to listen to the voice of the people and adapt their policies accordingly.

A movement spokesman, Chiang Chi-yi, first read a statement and the conclusions of last Saturday’s people’s assembly, before placing the legislative speaker’s gavel back in its place, symbolizing the handover back to the elected Legislative Yuan. The whereabouts of the wooden object had become something of a mystery over the final few days of the occupation, with allegations it had been stolen or broken.

The people’s assembly produced six main demands. The first said the people had the right to use a referendum to decide on cross-straits treaties and accords affecting sovereignty and important elements of Taiwan’s way of life. Basic values and human rights had to take precedence over economic development, the students said, naming national security, democracy and freedom, cultural identity, environment and distributive justice as Taiwan’s key values.

Agreements with China should also give rise to independent reviews, while the interests of workers and weaker sectors of the economy should also be safeguarded, the students demanded. It was right for lawmakers to review such accords, but they should be made to listen to public opinion rather than to orders from their party leadership. The final conclusion from the people’s assembly was that Taiwan’s sovereignty and democratic system should not be diminished or harmed by any agreements with China.

As Lin, wearing his trademark military-style green jacket, and Chen left the legislative premises, supporters and journalists pressed around them, causing them to spend 18 minutes to cover just 100 meters, reports said. The national flag was raised over the building again.

Before the students left the Legislature, former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung embraced student leader Lin Fei-fan as a sign of support. The former opposition politician visited the occupation on a daily basis in its final days to hold a sit-in in support. Another former opposition leader, Tsai Ing-wen, also appeared to encourage the activists.

Beginning at 4 p.m., police only allowed people to leave the Legislature but nobody to enter. 500 police officers reportedly entered the compound and made sure nobody was still hiding inside, while 560 others remained on guard in the surroundings. A total of 3,000 officers could be relied on in the event of trouble, reports said.

Later reports indicated that investigators were taking pictures and collecting fingerprints inside the legislative chamber to prepare for future legal action against the occupiers.

Ketagalan Boulevard, the wide road leading to the Presidential Office Building, was closed off to the public after 7:30 p.m., reports said. The area is a popular destination for protesters.

At Thursday evening’s rally, former student activist Fan Yun described the numerous discussions and debates surrounding the occupation as “street democracy” in action and as lessons in civic education. Other participants told the public about their experiences during the more than three weeks of action. Lin left the area in a Lexus limousine around 8:30 p.m. as the event was coming to an end almost half an hour early, cable station Sanlih E-Television News reported.

A small group of activists belonging to the Free Taiwan Front stayed at the Legislative Yuan’s main entrance and planned not to leave the area, but it was unclear by 9:30 p.m. whether police would take action against them.

As a result of the 24-day occupation, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng promised lawmakers would put the approval of a framework package monitoring trade talks with China before the review of last June’s trade pact itself. Wang made the unexpected promise during a visit to the students last Sunday, provoking a backlash from fellow Kuomintang lawmakers.

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