Thu, Nov 03, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Students occupy DPP headquarters to protest labor bill

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Students yesterday break into Democratic Progressive Party headquarters in Taipei, hoping to talk to President Tsai Ing-wen about the government’s plans to cancel seven national holidays.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Students stormed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei yesterday, escalating a protest over controversial amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

About 20 students from groups affiliated with the Workers’ Struggle Alliance scuffled with police guarding the glass doors lead to the DPP’s offices, shouting for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to come out and face them over the party’s plan to cut the number of national holidays per year from 19 to 12.

The cuts would be implemented following the passage of a bill that is part of reforms to implement a 40-hour workweek, with a final vote possible as soon as next week after the expiration of a one-month waiting period imposed after cross-caucus negotiations.

Protesters occupied a reception area at the DPP offices shortly after noon, prior to a meeting of the DPP Central Standing Committee, after reportedly failing to force their way down to a lower floor where the meeting was to be held.

They pasted slogans across foyer walls and doors, occasionally shouting slogans in between speeches.

“The main reason [for the occupation] is the response we received from [DPP caucus whip] Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) yesterday [Tuesday] and the fact that we have protested in front of DPP headquarters many times, but have never received a response,” Taiwan Higher Education Union student action committee member Su Tzu-hsuan (蘇子軒) said.

Ker on Tuesday said he was only willing to discuss the amendments with other legislators, after protesters briefly occupied one of his offices at the Legislative Yuan to demand a public debate.

The protesters also criticized statements by Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), who said Tuesday’s occupation was unacceptable, as a legislator’s office constitutes “private space.”

“If offices were truly ‘private space,’ then Su as legislative speaker should not have issued an official condemnation and the fact that he did not shows that they at least partially belong to the public,” Su Tzu-hsuan said, threatening that the protesters would follow DPP members “like shadows” if they failed to respond.

“We have to draw a line between ourselves and this ‘capitalist’ party that is advancing the interests of the wealthy, meeting secretly with business groups and capitalists, rather than listening to young people,” he said.

The protesters occupied the foyer for about an hour before attempting to stage a retreat, only to be blocked briefly by police officers before they were allowed to quietly trickle into the elevators.

DPP officials reportedly asked the police to refrain from dragging the students out of the building.

Su said the protesters staged a voluntary retreat after it became apparent there was “absolutely no way” that they would meet with Tsai.

DPP spokesman Juan Chao-hsiung (阮昭雄) said the party respected the protesters’ opinions and their right to freedom of expression.

“We respect different opinions and believe these young people have fully expressed theirs,” Juan said when asked why no DPP officials tried to communicate with the protesters.

Tsai did not comment on the protest during the committee meeting, Juan said.

Additional reporting by Chen Wei-han

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