Scuffles erupt between rival Taiwan protesters near legislative building

Police forced to step in as opponents and supporters of trade deal clash in Taipei

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 2:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 10:41am

Tensions flared between rival demonstrators near Taiwan's legislative building yesterday, as some 2,000 Taiwanese backers of a contentious Beijing-Taipei trade pact demanded that anti-trade-deal students occupying parliament leave.

The ongoing student protest, which has lasted more than two weeks, has also prompted "worry" from the mainland's top Taiwan affairs official.

Watch: Pro-China trade rally hits streets of Taiwan

Speaking to Taiwan's Central News Agency, National Chengchi University scholar Tung Chen-yuan said last night he had just talked to Zhang Zhijun , who heads the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office.

Tung said Zhang asked how a massive student movement could happen in Taiwan given the island's is well-established democracy. The report said Zhang expressed worry over the student movement's impact on Taiwan's development.

Zhang did not directly respond when asked if Beijing was open to renegotiating the services trade pact with Taipei, saying there was little precedence.

There were several rounds of confrontations in Taipei yesterday between the rival camps of the pact, prompting police to cordon off the building to prevent fist fights.

Pro-pact groups led by the Taiwan Labour Welfare Union donned red headbands before gathering at around 1.30pm outside the headquarters of the Control Yuan, Taiwan's highest watchdog body, just blocks away from the legislature. They chanted "Support the services trade pact", "Return our parliament" and "We want survival".

They started marching towards the Legislative Yuan in the early afternoon, around the time that staunch pact supporter Chang An-lo showed up. Chang, an ex-leader of the Bamboo Gang triad known as the "White Wolf", now heads the Chinese Unification Promotion Party, one of the protest organisers.

"We may not have a perfect system here, but this does not mean we can do what we want. And if you find Ma incapable, you can always unseat him or simply elect a new president two years later," he said, referring to the 2016 presidential election.

But a large number of protesters who have supported the students since day one shouted back: "Get lost, gangster!"