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Taiwan Protesters Occupy Legislature, Demand End to China Trade Pact

Hundreds of protesters have burst into Taiwan's legislature to demand the government scrap a planned trade deal with China.

The protesters knocked down a large metal gate as they entered the legislative chamber late Tuesday and are using chairs to keep out police.

They are protesting a far-reaching trade deal with China that they say will endanger Taiwanese jobs and increase Beijing's growing influence.

A spokesman for the student protesters, Huang Yu-fen, said his group is demanding that a government committee revoke its initial review of the deal.

"We demand Legislative Yuan Chairman Wang Chin-ping declare directly that the decision made by interior committee yesterday is invalid. And we ask President Ma Ying-jeou to come here to respond to the people's demands in person," said Huang.

Taiwan-China economic ties have been strong for years. Political relations have also grown warmer following historic high-level talks last month.

Taiwan's opposition is worried about excessive Chinese influence. They vow to vote against the trade deal, but do not have the strength to block it.

The trade deal is part of the far-reaching Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, or ECFA, signed between Taiwan and China in 2010.
Under the subdivision of the pact now under discussion, Chinese and Taiwanese service companies would increase investments in each other's territory.
Chang Ching, a Taiwan-based research fellow at the Society for Strategic Studies, told VOA the dangers of the deal are being overblown by some in the opposition who have their eye on elections later this year.
"Many of the impacts to the service sector in Taiwan are overstated by the opposition party. But that's just the reality of life. Because in the opposition party, you will definitely find some who want to mobilize the public in order to get support [and] in order to get political leverage," said Chang.
However, Chang said, the opposition does have a legitimate complaint about the way in which the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party decided to review the agreement.
"Originally, [the KMT] promised they would review the agreement - article by article, item by item, clause by clause. But eventually, they found another way to interpret that. [They said] since it is an administrative agreement, it can automatically be passed," explained Chang.
The debate over the trade pact comes as many in Taiwan are concerned over steadily improving political ties with China.
Last month, Taiwan's top official on China affairs, Wang Yu-chi, visited the mainland, where he held Taiwan's first ever political talks with China.
Taiwan split from China following a civil war in 1949. But Beijing still regards it as a breakaway province that will someday be reunified with the mainland.
Economic ties have improved in recent years, especially after the somewhat Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou was elected president in 2008 and re-elected in 2012.

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