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Protesters Continue Occupying Taiwan's Legislature

Student protesters occupied Taiwan's legislature for a second straight day Thursday to protest a controversial trade deal with China.

The students broke into parliament late Tuesday night and have so far successfully repelled police efforts to remove them from the chamber.

They are calling for the government to conduct a more detailed review of the trade deal, which they say could endanger Taiwanese jobs.

The opposition, which has long been wary of China, also worries the agreement will increase Beijing's growing influence in Taiwan.



The protest was prompted by complaints that the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party went back on its promise to conduct a thorough review the pact.

On Wednesday, student organizer Shi Yilun told VOA the protesters feel the KMT party has bypassed the democratic process.



"The public hearings have not taken into consideration the voice of the people, the voice of all parties, or the questions and challenges all sides have about the Cross Strait Service Trade Agreement. On the contrary, on February 17 (the KMT) did something that violated fundamental democratic procedures and was without regard to the people of Taiwan. They violated what we authorized them to do at that time. We've come here to take back our rights."



KMT Policy Committee Chairman Lin Hong-chi told reporters that the protesters are the ones damaging Taiwan's democracy.



"From last night until the present moment, a portion of the populous has been misled by a small number of people with ulterior motives into occupying the Legislative Yuan. This has caused great harm to Taiwan's democracy. How sacred are the halls of parliament. To trample on a palace of democracy is to trample on parliament, which is the same as trampling on the people."



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.

The opposition has vowed to vote against the trade deal, but does not have the strength to block it.

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

Taiwan split from China following a civil war in 1949. 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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