Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Public shows its support for student-led protests

STRONG SHOWING:A cheer erupted in the occupied legislative chamber when the protest’s leaders announced that the number of protesters surpassed 500,000

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

A girl waves a flag reading: “Taiwan” as thousands of people join a demonstration against a cross-strait service trade agreement in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Sam Yeh. AFP

The strong showing at the mass protest in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei yesterday has given the students who have been occupying the legislative floor for 13 days the confidence to continue their fight for Taiwan’s democracy, they said.

After protest leader Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) announced that the number of protesters had surpassed 350,000 — and later surpassed 500,000 — a loud cheer erupted in the legislative chamber, which has been occupied by about 200 students since March 18.

“500,000 people have spoken. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), do you still plan on hiding? 500,000 people demand your positive response,” Lin said.

The protest, a collaboration with civic groups, was the first time since the “Sunflower student movement” began that the students tried to actively bring in outside help.

The protest appeared to gain support after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) rejected the demands the students made in a press conference on Saturday.

Ma conditionally agreed to establish a legislative monitoring mechanism on future cross-strait agreements, but rejected the organization of a citizens’ constitutional conference and the withdrawal of the controversial service trade pact, saying that the monitoring mechanism and the trade pact should be separate issues.

The movement’s leadership planned to organize the mass protest on Ketagalan Boulevard to apply pressure to Ma, but asked the students and protesters to head back to the Legislative Yuan compound, which is a few hundred meters from Ketagalan Boulevard, after the scheduled conclusion of the protest at 7pm to continue the original protest.

The leadership’s fear of a lack of manpower was never a concern with protesters packing every road near the Legislative Yuan — Ketagalan Boulevard, Zhongshan S Rd, Zhinan Rd, Qingdao E Rd and Linsen S Rd.

As the mass rally went on in front of the Presidential Office Building, students in the chamber conducted video teleconferences with foreign students who supported their movement in simultaneous rallies in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia.

Outside the Legislative Yuan compound, scheduled activities — including speeches, music performances and movie screenings, went on at Qingdao E Rd and Zhinan Rd, with students at both places watching a live broadcast of the major rally a few blocks away from giant TV screens.

Students returned to the Legislative Yuan compound after the rally ended at about 7:45pm, as members of the public headed home with no major conflicts reported.

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