'Occupy parliament' students give Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou a deadline to stop China trade deal

Protestors occupying Taiwan's legislature call on president and speaker to withdraw controversial trade pact with mainland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 4:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 4:40am

Students occupying Taiwan's legislative chamber threatened yesterday to expand their protest if the authorities refused to withdraw a controversial cross-strait services trade pact from legislative review.

Protestors issued their demand to President Ma Ying-jeou and legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng as the unprecedented take-over of the Legislative Yuan entered its third day.

"Ma must commit to retracting the agreement from the legislature for review [and] pass a bill aimed at supervising all agreements reached between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in this legislature session," said Chen Wei-ting, a leader of the "occupy legislature" student protest. He said Ma must also not "negotiate or sign any pacts with the [mainland] Chinese government before the bill is approved".

Chen said Wang must declare null and void a unilateral announcement by Ma's ruling Kuomintang to send the pact to the floor today for review. The students would push their protest to the next phase if they received no response by noon, said Chen, who stopped short of saying what such an escalation might entail.

The protest, which has attracted more than 3,000 protesters inside and outside the chamber, has so far remained largely peaceful.

Chen is a member of the Black Island Nation Front, which was formed in September to oppose the trade agreement signed in June by Beijing and Taipei.

KMT lawmaker Chang Ching-chung, who had led a joint committee meeting on how to carry out a line-by-line review of the pact, abruptly announced on Monday that the pact would be sent to the legislative floor in its entirety.

The move triggered angry protests by legislators from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which thought it had a deal with the KMT for an itemised review.

Students subsequently invaded the Yuan to protest against what they said was a "shameless" reversal by the KMT.

Ma said at a KMT meeting on Wednesday that the pact must be passed before the current legislative session ends in July to ensure Taiwan's global competitiveness.

Yesterday, the president said he would hold a meeting this morning with Wang, Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Vice-President Wu Den-yih to discuss ways of resolving the stand-off, despite previous pledges to stay out of the legislative process.

Wang said the legislature would cancel its scheduled floor meeting today.

The speaker urged the students to remain rational and reasonable, saying the protest was the result of "someone who broke a promise", which was taken to be a reference to Chang. He said he was meeting with everyone concerned in an effort to resolve the issue.