Undeterred by the waves of protests against his pet pact, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) remains resolute about pushing the controversial cross-strait service trade pact through the legislature, reaffirming on Wednesday his determination that the pact must pass the legislature by June and that the Executive Yuan must ratify it by then.
As a national leader with an embarrassing 9 percent approval rating, Ma nonetheless finds the confidence within to go against mainstream public opinion, such as that depicted in a recent poll by Taiwan Indicator Survey Research that found 73.7 percent of respondents supported a line-by-line review of the proposed pact.
In the most serious challenge to Ma’s China policy so far, a group of protesters, mostly students, have occupied the Legislative Yuan since Tuesday evening, demonstrating against Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers for what protesters say is reneging on a promise to conduct a clause-by-clause review of the contentious pact.
The students, in a tense standoff with police, yesterday issued an ultimatum, threatening “further action” if Ma does not respond to their demands by noon today.
However, at press time last night, Ma remained unresponsive to the students’ call.
Ma often touts democracy as the nation’s greatest achievement. He has repeatedly trumpeted himself as the defender of the Constitution and lectured officials on respecting and implementing constitutional governance. However, how is it democratic and respectful to the Constitution and the rule of law when he is seemingly transforming democracy into dictatorship by breaching the principle of the separation of powers through threats to legislators, such as demanding that KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) must have the pact clear the legislative floor?
Ma’s action is a clear case of executive power encroaching on legislative power.
If Ma is wise, however, he would, in a timely fashion, take the students’ call as an invitation and meet with them to hear their concerns. By doing so, he would not only demonstrate a level of class befitting a president, but also set a good example while living up to his self-anointed title of the “people’s president” (全民總統), one who opens his ears and listens to Taiwanese.
During the Wild Lilies (野百合學運) student movement in 1991, then-premier Lee Huan (李煥) visited with students and then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) also met the student representatives to hear their concerns.
Until as recently as last week, Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, was urging his Cabinet ministers to go on political talk shows to promote the government’s report card, which he said has a lot of good policies that are not well-known to the public.
If he believes what he preaches, a great opportunity for the president to conduct a genuine dialogue with the students has arrived. However, Ma chose to completely ignore the students’ call.
Given how he once responded so swiftly to media reports that a long-time female supporter had lost her admiration for him that he flew to Hualien to pay her a special visit, resulting in her saying the president was back on her list of idols, Ma’s lack of of response to the students’ appeal is disturbing. It once again confirms underlying suspicions that the president has selective hearing — that he hears Beijing’s impatient drumbeat for the passage of the pact, but not the voices, concerns and worries of Taiwanese.