Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Protest gathers broad support

‘BLACK-CLAD ARMY’:While the majority of protesters were young people, they included a broad spectrum of society, drawn together by concern for Taiwan’s future

By Chris Wang, Lee Hsin-fang and Kan Chih-chi  /  Staff reporters

A student protester yesterday passes out sunflowers to supporters of the “Sunflower student movement” against the service trade pact with China in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei.

Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP

From all walks of life, supporters of the “Sunflower student movement” took to the street in Taipei yesterday, marked by festivity, diversity and order.

An hour before the scheduled start of the event at 1pm, the “black-clad army” — dress code for the protest against the government’s handling of the controversial cross-strait service trade pact — emerged from nearby MRT stations and packed the designated protest site in front of the Presidential Office Building on Ketagalan Boulevard.

“I am here to support these students. I’m here out of guilt because people of my generation have done too little. We owe these kids a better Taiwan,” said Chiu Shih-lung (邱仕龍), who is in his 70s.

Chiu, who came from Greater Kaohsiung, said he supported the students’ cause of safeguarding Taiwan’s democracy and demanding the withdrawal of the cross-strait service pact because “it endangers national security and sovereignty.”

“We must safeguard our island’s interests,” said Chin Mei Ching, a 29-year-old mother who was pushing her one-year-old daughter in a buggy. “We have to guard against China using the economy to control us.”

The majority of the protesters were students and young people.

They brought sunflowers, a symbol of the protests, and wore yellow ribbons that read “Fight for democracy, retract the service trade pact.”

Some posed with self-made banners, on which were slogans such as “Condemn state violence” and “I don’t want the service trade pact,” or demanding President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) step down.

Alliance of Civil Action Against Ma Ying-jeou spokesperson Shen Chih-lin (沈志霖) stood in the crowd and gave out stickers that read: “Ma Ying-jeou step down” (馬英九下台).

Shen said he prepared 1,500 of the stickers and distributed them near the Jingfumen (景福門), which directly faces the Presidential Office Building, and 500 of them were taken by eager protesters in the space of one minute.

A man disappointed with Ma’s failed governance suggested Shen print a sticker that read: “Nine percent approval rating, Ma Ying-jeou step down,” adding: “How can Ma govern the nation or gain trust from the people with such a low approval rating?”

Separately, students from Taipei National University of the Arts brought 3,000 sunflower brooches they had made and gave them out to the protesters.

The students said that about 10 students worked on the brooches from 6pm on Saturday until early yesterday, with NT$30,000 of funds they had raised.

Half of the brooches were given out within 10 minutes, near NTU Hospital MRT Station’s exit No. 1, at 1pm. The students said they kept the rest for distribution at the legislature.

Like their peers at the week-long sit-ins around the legislature compound, besieged by students and other activists and protesters since March 18, university professors made the street their classrooms, holding discussions and having students express their views about the trade deal with China.

A student spoke through a loudspeaker to his classmates from Soochow University, saying that he believed young people “would see a different face of society when they are on the street” and that would be at least as meaningful — if not more meaningful — as studying in the library or doing laboratory research.

Designer Chiang Lin Chia-jen (姜林家真) held a handmade, helmet-shaped umbrella that read: “Don’t hit my head” to protest against the violence the government used against unarmed student protesters at the Executive Yuan on Monday morning.

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