Legislative speaker calls for calm amid stand-off

Wang Jin-pyng urges police and students to avoid further violence after hundreds seize parliament in protest over KMT's cross-strait trade push

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 4:09am

Taiwanese legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng has called for a peaceful resolution of a student occupation of the island’s parliament, triggered by the ruling party’s handling of a trade deal with the mainland.

Police tried three times to remove about 200 demonstrators who have barred the main chamber’s exits with chairs and other furniture after they burst in on Tuesday evening.

Four protesters were arrested and 38 officers injured as authorities’ sought to regain control.

“The confrontation must be resolved in a peaceful manner and the protesters not be harmed,” Wang said yesterday.

Video: Taiwan students protest China trade pact in parliament

Police said about 2,250 people had gathered outside the legislature in a show of solidarity with the students by last night, Central News Agency reported.

Shouting “Police back off,” and “No selling out Taiwan to China”, the students are protesting over the Kuomintang’s push for a controversial cross-strait service trade pact. The deal was signed in June last year as a follow-up to the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement inked in 2010 by Taiwan and the mainland to open up each other’s markets.

On Monday, KMT legislators cut short a bipartisan discussion of the deal. They are seeking to put it to a floor review, and ultimately a vote in the Legislative Yuan, where they enjoy a majority, before the term ends in July.

The KMT said the pact would go to a floor review as a single item, and not “article by article”, as they had earlier agreed to do with the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

The students vowed to stay until tomorrow, when debate is due to begin. “We want Ma to apologise, [Premier] Jiang Yi-huah to resign and the legislature return the agreement [to cabinet],” said Huang Yu-fang, a spokeswoman of the Black Island Nation Youth Alliance.

Wang’s plea for restraint came as a court ruled in favour of his lawsuit against the KMT’s chairman, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who sought to strip him of his party membership, and his title as speaker. The ruling could help Wang maintain a neutral position in discussions over the trade pact.

Beijing has repeatedly asked Taiwan to swiftly pass the deal.

DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang called on all party officials and supporters to gather at the legislature to force the KMT to review the pact item by item.

Chen Ting-wei, a student activist from National Tsinghua University, said that if the KMT refused to review the agreement as it originally said, “we will urge more people to storm the legislature”.

Wang’s neutral stance has reportedly upset Ma, who in September accused him of influence-peddling. Wang later filed a court injunction to temporarily freeze the KMT action.

The Taipei District Court sided with Wang yesterday, and the KMT said it would review the decision before deciding whether to appeal.