Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - Page 1 News List

‘Black-clad army’ rallies for democracy in Taipei

PEOPLE POWER:Estimates of the number of participants varied widely, but Ketagalan Boulevard, Chungshan S Road and Qingdao E Road were packed early on, restricting latecomers to Xinyi or Zhongxiao W roads and Liberty Square

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

“Ma can still bypass the supervision of the legislature by issuing an executive order. He can still use party discipline and trade favors to force the KMT legislators into submission and pass the pact,” they said. “From the 318 Occupation [of the Legislative Yuan] to the 330 Demonstration [yesterday’s protest], civic consciousness has been rising in Taiwan. More than 50 civic groups are coming out today to form a ‘citizen’s constitutional boulevard,’ with each member to establish a speakers’ corner to discuss issues pertaining to democracy, freedom of speech, healthcare, social welfare, vulnerable groups, labor rights, environment protection or land/residential justice.”

On Ketagalan Boulevard, against the backdrop of a banner reading: “Protect our democracy, withdraw the trade deal,” various student, civic and labor group representatives, as well as lawyers, professors, academics and movie directors, delivered talks on the main stage of the rally from 1pm until the end.

Academia Sinica assistant researcher Peng Jen-Yu (彭仁郁) said she represented about 120 colleagues who have signed a letter voicing their dissent to what they feel is the government’s opaque handling of the pact with China and the violent police crackdown against student protesters at the Executive Yuan on Monday morning.

Also at yesterday’s event was Freddy Lim (林昶佐), the vocalist of Chthonic (閃靈), a black-metal rock band, and Amnesty International Taiwan chairman, who said that state violence against demonstrators cannot be tolerated.

As a musician, Lim pointed to the danger the local entertainment industry faces if the pact is implemented.

“Do you expect artworks and their creators to be free of the Chinese government’s censorship when you invest in performance venues over there [in China]? With investors pouring funds into in both Chinese and Taiwanese performance venues, artists who are censored or refused by Beijing may not perform in Taiwan out of pure economic consideration,” he said.

National Taiwan University professor Yen Chueh-an (顏厥安) told the crowd that “in a democratic country, we do not overthrow a government that we dislike, we change it.”

“However, the challenge we are now facing is a crisis of constitutionalism, which means that we cannot throw disqualified officials out of office or alter the policies that we abhor,” Yen said, before joking that since “it would be too tiring if we have to storm into Legislative Yuan all the time,” Taiwan needs “a long-term solution, which is the citizens’ constitutional conference.”

Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said Ma was being intentionally ambiguous in the wording he used at the press conference on Saturday, “misleading the media into believing — contrary to the truth — that he has agreed to three of the students’ four requests.”

He then called on KMT lawmakers to stand with the public rather than the “9 percent president.”

Saying that Ma “keeps hitting a straw man and misguiding the public with questionable information,” student protest leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) asked the president to “face up to the problem.”

Chen added that Ma was insincere in expressing his concerns about Taiwan’s future, since at the same time, he was “obstructing Taiwanese’s concrete participation” in their political system and accused the president of worrying only about his promises to and agreements with Beijing.

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