(Corrects location of cities in ninth paragraph.)
Thousands of students protested in and around the legislature in Taipei against ruling party tactics designed to push a trade deal with China through Taiwan’s legislature.
About 2,250 people, most of them students, have joined the demonstration, according to National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun, and 2,000 police officers have been deployed to the site. Four people have been arrested and 38 police officers have been injured, Wang said.
President Ma Ying-jeou should apologize for the heavy-handed tactics his party has used to circumvent a detailed review of a trade deal with China, Lin Yu-hsuan, one of the student protesters, said by phone from inside the chamber today.
“We think what he did just harmed the democracy of Taiwan, so he needs to explain to everybody and apologize,” said Lin, who was part of a group that stormed the building at around 9 p.m. last night.
Lawmakers from Taiwan’s political parties had agreed in June to review each provision of a trade deal signed with China. The services agreement, which follows 2010’s Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement negotiated between China and Taiwan, would open up as many as 80 industries including banking, brokerages, and e-commerce to business across the Taiwan Strait.
Trade groups representing beauticians and traditional medicine retailers, among other affected industries, expressed opposition in the months following the signing, saying they weren’t properly informed or supported by the administration in light of impending competition from Chinese business.
After two consecutive days of fights and scuffling with opposition lawmakers last week, Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang party, led by Ma, declared on March 17 the pact had passed the required reviews. The KMT, as the party is known, holds a majority of seats in the legislature.
Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party said in a statement the ruling party had reneged on the agreement for a detailed review and wouldn’t accept the result. Students, including Lin, believe the Kuomintang should retract any attempts to force the trade deal into law.
Students from the western Taiwan cities of Taichung and Kaohsiung climbed barricades to get onto the legislative floor, joining about 400 others who vow to hold the site for 120 hours, according to Lin. Attempts by police to enter the chamber and repel students in the early hours of this morning failed, with the situation remaining mostly peaceful during today, she said.
China’s Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors, or RQFII, program quota for Taiwan is pending the pact’s approval, central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan said March 6. A planned $670 million investment by China’s biggest bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., to take a 20 percent stake in Taiwan’s Bank Sinopac is also pending passage of the trade agreement.
The legislature’s Vice President, ruling party lawmaker Hung Hsiu-chu, said by phone the trade agreement hasn’t yet been scheduled for a full floor vote.