Students vow to continue Taiwan parliament protest after deadline to meet demands ignored

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 March, 2014, 2:51am

Taiwanese students occupying the Legislative Yuan called on people across the island to join their protest after the ruling party failed to meet their deadline to drop a free-trade pact with the mainland.

The students urged people to gather at the legislature today and tomorrow and besiege local Kuomintang offices to support their movement against the cross-strait services trade agreement. They vowed to carry their campaign against the KMT through local elections later this year, if President Ma Ying-jeou does not withdraw the pact.

Watch: Protesters occupying Taiwan's parliament issue ultimatum

"There will be no turning back," said Lin Fei-fan, one of the leaders of the Black Island Nation Youth Front, which is co-ordinating the effort.

About 200 students seized the parliamentary chamber on Tuesday, and more than 2,000 have surrounded the building in solidarity. The students were also for a time joined by some 30,000 backers of the Democratic Progressive Party, causing some to worry that their movement risked being co-opted by the island's main opposition party.

The students gave Ma and legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng an ultimatum on Thursday to agree to their demands by noon today day or face an escalation of the protest.

The students issued their call-to-arms after Ma failed to withdraw the trade pact. Ma, who has described the protest as a "forcible and violent way" to petition parliament, also did not respond to their request for a face-to-face meeting.

Lin said the students were deeply disappointed by Ma's failure to respond to their demands. Ma should listen to the public and remove the pact from the legislative process, he said.

"His insistence on pushing through his will and his ignorance of the public's demands has led to the loss of his right to act as president," Lin said.

The protesters, as well as the DPP and civil action groups, say the pact would lead to fewer jobs. They also say that closer ties with Beijing could put the island's democracy at risk.

They want the deal to be removed from a scheduled review by the legislature and a bill passed aimed at supervising all agreements reached between Beijing and Taipei.

No other deals with the mainland should be passed until the new law is in place. They said the Kuomintang had endangered the democratic process by going back on their initial agreement to submit the deal to an itemised review in the legislature.

The DPP mobilised additional demonstrators yesterday, but student leaders said they feared involvement of the opposition could change the nature of their protest.

"This is a protest staged by students, not by politicians, and we don't want others to confuse the purpose," one student said.

Many opposition party supporters wore shirts at the rally bearing the names of candidates contesting local government elections slated for later this year.

Ma asked to meet Wang in the morning to discuss the stand-off, but the speaker refused, saying it was the result of a conflict between the government and opposition parties.