The China Post news staff
TAIPEI, Taiwan — One of richest people in Taiwan canceled a plan to show up at the Legislature to discuss the controversial cross-strait trade pact with student protesters yesterday. Terry Gou, chairman of the Hon Hai Group, canceled the plan after failing to reach an agreement with the students over his planned appearance at the Legislative Yuan’s Assembly Hall, which the protesters have been occupying for almost three weeks in protest of the cross-strait pact. Gou, who has openly supported the trade pact, had reportedly intended to take part in the “People’s Congress” being held by students to discuss the issues related to the trade agreement.
Student leader Lin Fei-fan had been welcoming of Gou’s participation, but the Central News Agency reported that other students inside the chamber were unwilling to let him in because of his open support for the pact. Businesses in Taiwan generally support the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, saying it is needed to enhance Taiwan’s competitiveness and its chances of signing free trade agreements with other countries.
However the student protesters demand more transparency and monitoring before the signing of agreements with mainland China.
Meanwhile, supporters of the students’ Sunflower Movement demonstrated in front of ruling Kuomintang (KMT) legislators’ offices in an attempt to press them into withdrawing from the trade pact. Some 300 demonstrators started marching down the streets of Banqiao, New Taipei City, at 5 p.m. before rallying in front of Legislator Lin Hung-chih’s office. “Recall Lin Hung-chih,” the protesters chanted. “Reject Ma’s orders, listen to the people!” They also reiterated the student movement’s main demand that the review of the trade pact must be put on hold until a new law has been made to better monitor cross-strait negotiations.
When police guarding Lin’s office warned the protesters of their alleged violation of the law regarding free-assembly, they replied, “We are just passing by. You, police, are violating the law by restricting the freedom of speech!”
The rally ended in peace approximately two hours later. In Tamsui, New Taipei City, a few hundred protesters also took to the streets to heap pressure on Legislator Wu Yu-sheng over the trade pact. Some 50 police officers were deployed at Wu’s office in Tamsui to monitor the demonstration. Wu branded such a demonstration as a form of violence. He said different opinions should be tolerated and asked the students to go home to “sweep tombs,” as yesterday was Tomb Sweeping Day.
Lin, a whip of the KMT legislative caucus, and Wu are among four ruling party legislators whom the student protesters have identified as major supporters of the trade pact. The Cabinet, in response to the protesters’ demands, has submitted a draft bill to the Legislature for the monitoring of cross-strait negotiations. Some civic groups have also worked out their own versions of such a law. The “People’s Congress” was meant to explore the pros and cons of the different versions. Students inside and outside the legislative compound were divided into separate discussion groups, with lawyers and scholars serving as their moderators.
Lai Chung-chiang, a lawyer who led one of the discussion groups, said such discussions showed that the protesters are open-minded. The results of their discussions will be sent to the Legislature and Cabinet for reference, he added. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng has been trying to broker a deal between the KMT lawmakers and their opposition counterparts to break the deadlock, but so far all negotiations have failed. Legislator Ker Chien-ming, head of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, said there is no chance for the trade pact to be reviewed by the Legislature in the current session. DPP lawmakers have been blocking the review of the agreement.