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: Joe from: Taiwan
March 21, 2014 6:09 AM
Governments all around the world are trying to circumvent the democratic process to push laws through that people do not support, and are not good for the people. Usually these are trade pacts that will lower wages and create unbalanced competitive playing field.

by: The Stinky Tofu from: USA/Taiwan
March 20, 2014 10:23 PM
I have to admit this has been one of the many articles that use the wikipedia when describing the Taiwanese plight and situation. Taiwan has never been a province of PRC, how can it be a split? ROC yes, Taiwan no.

Shame on VOANEWS.... another OLD MEDIA like article sadly.

by: 柯旭銘
March 20, 2014 9:11 AM
The article do not state the vox populi in Taiwan.All people mentioned in this article is KMT-related. In fact ,this activtity is initiated by promising college students.The main appeal is to put an end to this deal. Because chairman of Procedure Committee ,also an KMT's lawmaker , holds an nobody meeting in 30 seconds ,he declares this deal should be put into meeting agenda in his murmuring voice at the corner. Ironically,It is the most undemocratic party which says the students are destroying democracy. Besides, KMT do not hold much public hearing after its negotiators fininishing the deal with China. Please include these, cuz in the recent days,The President,also the chairmen of KMT, would force the deal in an undemocratic way.

by: Jimmy from: Taiwan
March 20, 2014 8:31 AM
The article is very biased toward the ruling party,Nationalist.In fact,the actitivity is initiated by a group of college students.They,or the supporters calls for the ruling party to rebuke the deals.The deals are not examined by democracy process.The chairman of Procedure Committee,also an lawmaker of ruling party holds a 30 seconds meeting to put the deals into meeting agenda. While the people in the article say the students are a group of mob,ignoring democracy. Ironically, it is the ruling party who says the deals are nothing but an administrative order, cuz the ruling party think Taiwan,part of China.

by: M from: Canada
March 19, 2014 10:11 PM
The content of this news article is very biased towards KMT politicians, who have been given a bigger voice in the 'discussion' here.

This is not about 'improvements' in the relationship between Taiwan and China, this is about allowing China more influence on an independent area of the world. Not just any place, this is an area that they do not recognize as being independent. China is hostile towards Taiwan, and this is necessarily an unequal agreement.

Chinese citizens will find the doors to Taiwan wide open while this will not be so for Taiwanese citizens. Clearly specific politicians have been influenced by things outside of the interests of the common Taiwanese person.

by: Shintaro Sakamoto from: Japan
March 19, 2014 7:27 AM
I support young Taiwanese. Never trust any offer from Beijing because China is the country that easily backs out the treaties and agreements for political purposes. Take a look at Hong Kong and Japan. As for Taiwan, a breakthrough on reunification won’t happen as long as Beijing remains authoritarian and continues to break its promises to Hong Kong. Do not fall into the same trap, Taiwan.
In Response

by: MLWU from: United States
March 20, 2014 10:19 PM
Zhoucan Chen, Hong Kong is a living example unification with China, and it's not a pretty one. You can argue that the economy has improved, but the improvement goes towards raising property prices and building businesses to serve Chinese "tourists", neither is to the benefit of Hong Kong people. Now on the already tiny land, they have to accommodate the flood of Chinese people who go there to give birth to babies and take bites into their welfare. You might have a dream, but they don't share it.
In Response

by: Zhoucan Chen from: USA
March 20, 2014 3:34 AM
Do not put Hong Kong and Japan over the same situation, ok? Hong Kong is a part of China, I strongly believe that is a dream of Chinese government and Chinese people to make Hong Kong economic be prosperous. How about Japan? Why bilateral relation of Sino-Japan is worsening immensely? That is caused by Japanese operation of the small island , not Chinese.
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