A group of presidents from 52 universities on Friday issued a joint statement calling on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to respond to student-led protesters’ demands as the standoff between them and the Ma administration over the cross-strait trade service pact continued.
In the statement, the 52-member Associations of National Universities of Taiwan urged Ma to engage in student protest leaders organizing a sit-in at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei in dialogue as soon as possible to defuse the row.
Association director-general Yang Hung-duen (楊弘敦), who heads National Sun Yat-sen University, said that while the president should face up to the protest and talk to the students, the latter also need to remain rational and calm while making their concerns heard.
The Association of National Universities of Science and Technology and the Association of Private Universities and Colleges of Technology also voiced their support for the anti-service trade pact activists, with National Taipei University of Technology President Yao Leeh-ter (姚立德) saying that students’ passion and concerns have been expressed clearly and he believes the Legislative and Executive yuans would reassess the possibility of renegotiating the agreement with China.
However, Yao also asked the students to return to their classrooms and give the legislative floor back to the lawmakers, saying that restoring the operation of the democratic institution it is ultimately the best course of action.
The associations’ statements were followed by another issued by National Taiwan University’s Math Department that also urged the head of state to hold a summit with the students, but was unequivocally supportive of the legislative occupation.
As of the time of its issuance, 25 of the 34 math professors at the National Taiwan University department had signed the statement declaring their support for the protesting students, it said.
The statement added that the professors stand with the students and the public, and support their right to oversee the government and the legitimacy of the demonstrators’ actions.
“We are not against the signing of the service trade agreement per se, since we do live in a world being swept by globalization, but the signing and review processes must be transparent and executed with due process. This is why we support what the students are demanding, which is rejecting any agreement signed ‘in a black box,’” it said.
The professors emphasized that the younger generation are the ones who will be most affected by the pact, so they have the right to voice concerns about, question and supervise how it is singed.
The statement also slammed remarks made earlier by a high-ranking Ministry of Economic Affairs official, who described the agreement as “beneficial to the students because after its implementation, they can work in China and earn NT$52,000 a month, rather than [the] NT$22,000 [they would make in Taiwan].”
“Is sending our educated youth to China for work the government’s only solution for the nation’s low wage and wealth gap problems?” the math academics asked.
Also expressing its unwavering supportive of the students was the National Alliance of Parents Organization, which issued a statement yesterday afternoon calling for dialogue and praising the students’ civic consciousness.
The alliance said that it is deeply worried about the students’ safety, but at the same time “immensely proud” of them.
“The government said you have been instigated to commit ‘irrational violence’ ... but we know that you are autonomous and exercising your civic consciousness. What the students are protesting against is the retreat of democracy forced by a legislative body no longer representing people’s will,” it said.
“Our parents were worried when we stood up against authoritarian rule 30 years ago… Today, we as parents also worry that the protesters’ safety might be at risk. So we demand that the government start a dialogue with the protestors soon and promise that it will not use force to evict the students from the legislature, as well as acquiesce to the demonstrators’ requests for just, democratic procedures,” the parental alliance said.
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