The mobilization of tens of thousands against the cross-strait service trade agreement is “a grave” national matter that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) must face by holding a dialogue with the protesters to find a solution, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said yesterday.
Lee called on Ma to sit down with the student-led activists, who yesterday entered the fifth day of their occupation of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, to listen to what they have to say about the pact and understand what they want the government to do so they can end the protest and go home as soon as possible.
“This is a grave matter for the country and the president needs to take it seriously,” Lee said.
Lee made the remarks in response to media inquiries about the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Monday sending the controversial pact to a plenary session even though it has not completed the committee-level stage of the review process.
The former president told reporters yesterday that he would have handled the protest movement differently than Ma has if he were still in charge.
During the Wild Lily (野百合學運) student movement in 1991 that culminated in legislative reforms, Lee met with the then-protest leaders on March 21 to listen to their views about political reform.
“People should not call the young people taking part in the pact protest ‘mobsters’ because they are voicing their views and they care about the country’s future,” Lee said.
He added that Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) had done the right thing by not attending a meeting on Friday that Ma called by evoking Article 44 of the Constitution to discuss the issue with Wang and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺).
“Ma was trying to shirk his responsibility to resolve the issue by passing it on to Wang,” Lee said.
Earlier yesterday, the Presidential Office said in a statement that Ma would not accept the protesters’ demand that he engage with them in a talk about the service trade pact.
The statement said Ma has always been willing to talk to groups representing all interests in a peaceful, rational manner, but that he found the students forcefully occupying the legislative chamber and then using the sit-in as leverage to demand a talk with the president to be unacceptable.
Ma had been scheduled to visit a business in Greater Tainan yesterday, as well as attend an annual event held by civic group Life Line International, but the appointments were canceled and he made no public appearances yesterday.