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Protesters Storm Taiwan Cabinet Office on China Trade Pact Anger

Protesters stormed Taiwan’s cabinet building as President Ma Ying-jeou failed to soothe public anger over his administration’s handling of a China trade agreement.

Hundreds of police carrying riot shields and batons struggled to hold back demonstrators, many of them students, after barbed-wire barricades were breached and some climbed into offices through windows, cable networks showed. Premier Jiang Yi-huah called on the National Police Agency to evict the protesters, according to a cabinet statement on its website.

The protest comes after students charged the island’s legislative chamber on March 18 after ruling party lawmakers cut short a review of a services agreement with China. The students demanded rules to monitor the negotiation of such agreements, and called for a cancellation of the deal after government officials denied their criticisms.

“Regional economic integration is an unstoppable global trend,” Ma said in a press briefing at his office. “If we do not face this and join in the process, it will only be a matter of time before we are eliminated from the competition.”

The services trade agreement signed in June would open up as many as 80 services industries, including banking, hospitals and e-commerce companies to markets and competition across the Taiwan Strait.

The legislature, where the Kuomintang party has a majority of seats, agreed in June to conduct a line-by-line review of the agreement signed by trade negotiators from China and Taiwan. Ruling party lawmakers last week declared the review portion of the legislative process was over after two days of confrontation with the opposition.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party members said last week they want to amend provisions involving banking and e-commerce companies, among others. Ma said today he agreed that the deal should undergo a detailed review.

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