News / Asia

Taiwan Protesters Occupy Legislature Over China Trade Pact

  • Students protesting against a China Taiwan trade pact rally in front of a wall of police outside of the occupied legislature, in Taipei, Taiwan, March 20, 2014.
  • Students protesting against a China Taiwan trade pact occupy the legislative floor, in Taipei, Taiwan, March 20, 2014.
  • Students protesting a China-Taiwan trade pact barricade themselves in legislature in Taipei, March 20, 2014. (Xiaobei Zhang/VOA)
  • Students protesting a China-Taiwan trade pact sleep inside the legislature in Taipei, March 20, 2014. (Xiaobei Zhang/VOA)
  • A student occupying the legislature in Taipei told VOA his mother is worried that he is in the building, March 20, 2014. (Xiaobei Zhang/VOA)
  • Students protesting against a China Taiwan trade pact occupy the legislative floor, in Taipei, Taiwan, March 20, 2014.
  • Student protesters against a China-Taiwan trade agreement barricade the entrance to the legislature in Taipei, March 19, 2014.
  • Hundreds of students protesting a China-Taiwan trade pact surround the legislature in Taipei, March 19, 2014.
  • Students and other protesters collide with police inside Taiwan's legislature in Taipei, March 18, 2014.
VOA News
Police and protesters have been engaged in a standoff in Taiwan's legislature after students stormed the building to demand the government scrap a trade deal with China.

The protesters Wednesday knocked down a large metal gate as they entered the legislative chamber late Tuesday and were using chairs to keep out police.  Authorities said several officers were slightly injured when they made a failed attempt to clear the chamber.

The students said the deal would endanger Taiwanese jobs and increase Beijing's growing influence.

Student organizer Shi Yilun told VOA that the protesters felt the ruling Kuomintang, or 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,” said Shi.

The students are upset that a government committee passed a review of the deal despite opposition protests.

KMT Policy Committee Chairman Lin Hong-chi told reporters that the protesters were 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,” said Lin.

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

Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford said the deal was too important for the island to pass up.

“The Cross Strait Service Trade Agreement has a stake in the nation’s prospects.  Mainland China is such a big market that if we don’t sign this agreement our competitiveness will drop.  How will we join regional mechanisms in the future?  Everyone had better calmly consider over [this], [we] must not be influenced by ideology," said Chang.

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 is a Taiwan-based research fellow at the Society for Strategic Studies.  He told VOA the dangers of the deal were 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," he said.

Chang said the opposition did have a legitimate complaint about the way in which the ruling 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," he said.

The debate over the trade deal 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.  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.

Hongshen Zhao contributed to this report from Taipei and William Gallo contributed from Washington.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.)

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Anonymous
April 09, 2014 8:44 PM
"On the contrary, on February 17 (the KMT) did something that violated fundamental democratic procedures and was without regard to the people of Taiwan."

Umm, it's March 17th. Just for correction.

by: Bernardo Pa from: Newport Coast, CA 92657
March 22, 2014 6:14 PM
Taiwan and China are different countries, any of the treaty to be signed, the government has to show to the people in Taiwan and to grab the first permit/approved from the people, then they can go to sign/discuss it... this time, they did in very bad and dishonest way just because the President Ma got no balls to say NO to China...he did a very poor job without courage. He let all of us down...

by: @Hannahxsommer
March 22, 2014 8:35 AM
Occupy Congress 2014 Taiwan
Live Text Broadcast Website (English Version)

Kindly Scroll Down to:
===↓ Live Broadcast Below ===
And Refresh Page from time to time

by: strawberry from: Taiwan
March 21, 2014 11:01 PM
With high unemployment rates and deficits among big corporations in Taiwan, I wonder how have the economic ties IMPROVED recently?? The news is obvious not objective!
In Response

by: Andy from: Los Angeles
March 22, 2014 12:29 AM
I read that the unemployment rate in Taiwan dropped recently. Is that not true?

by: Tim Budong from: Taiwan
March 21, 2014 2:57 PM
Taiwan would be just better of if treated by the PRC as if it would be a separate state. People here especially the younger generation, to whom ethnic undertones of "one china" seem as backwards as they are, know this very well but are left with little else they can do. Polls cropping up here every few hours are pretty clear on the silent majority supporting the protests and also the occupation itself, in contrast to what this article inclines.

by: Kai from: California
March 21, 2014 2:08 PM
You first accuse VOA is biased toward KMT, then the article, now who is biased... You express your opinion about what you believe, then say this article is not objective, now who is being subjective. Keep an open mind on this article, not to oppose because it's against what you believe.

by: Kevin from: California
March 21, 2014 1:57 PM
You first accuse the VOA is biased toward pro-KMT, then believe the report is biased, now who is biased.... funny. Do not oppose because you're biased.

by: Konan from: Indiana, USA
March 21, 2014 12:35 PM
Lazy, biased reporting. The VOA Mandarin service is heavily influenced by a pro-China perspective. The whole article is missing the point, which is NOT about whether the trade pact is good or bad. The students acted out of their own will and are NOT under the influence of the opposition party. The opposition party supports the protesters, not the other way around.

by: Jane from: Taiwan
March 21, 2014 9:29 AM
Absolutely not objective! Irresponsible article!!Those students were not misled or with ulterior intention!!The threat China tried to impose on Taiwan is never overstated!Once China has control over Taiwan economy, democracy and freedom of speech in Taiwan are bound to die. Never want to be a chinese.

by: Paul from: Earth
March 21, 2014 7:55 AM
One line to this report : Peeking the world from the hole of a straw.
Comments page of 2

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