Activists from various groups yesterday protested against a visit by the Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) over concerns about the negative impact of the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Protesters from the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and civic groups followed Chen, who arrived in Taipei yesterday for an eight-day visit, at every stop, including the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and the Strait Exchange Foundation’s (SEF) headquarters.
“Any cross-strait trade agreement should be transparent, monitored by the legislature and the public and not to be handled by unofficial organizations such as the SEF,” said Chen Ting-hao (陳廷豪), spokesperson of the Black Island National Youth Front, which is largely comprised of university students.
“We oppose the trade mechanism, including the service trade pact, the soon-to-be-completed trade in goods agreement and the free economic pilot zones. They will only benefit large enterprises and harm local sectors,” he added.
The Black Island National Youth Front demanded that the government suspend the negotiations on a trade in goods agreement with Beijing until the principle of reciprocal and fairness is ensured.
The group’s views reflected widespread concerns by the opposition and various business sectors, which say that Beijing and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration intend to push the service trade pact through the Legislative Yuan as soon as possible and that Chen Deming’s visit was likely a form of Chinese pressure.
The wave of protests began at about noon, with a group of students, TSU members and Falun Gong practitioners shouting slogans and holding placards and banners when Chen Deming appeared at the airport.
A student broke through police lines and got close to Chen Deming at the exit, but was taken away by officers. More than 100 officers had been deployed at the airport.
Chen Deming was greeted by SEF Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) at the airport, and attended a luncheon hosted by Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) while protesters were blocked outside the terminal.
He and his delegation later visited a free-trade harbor zone at the planned Taoyuan Aerotropolis project and the Taipei harbor, and then met with SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) in the foundation’s building, where protesters were waiting outside.
There was a brief scuffle between protesters and police outside the building.
“The service trade agreement was a collaboration between the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] and the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] to hollow out Taiwan service industry’s competitiveness,” several TSU members said.
Chen Deming, who has visited Taiwan before, said he looks forward to experiencing the nation’s beauty and great food.
As China continues to open its markets and facilitate the reform of the economic system, he said businesses from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should enjoy more opportunities and create more profits.
While his trip was aimed at promoting economic and trade cooperation between Taiwan and China and seeking cooperation opportunities, the SEF and the ARATS can also take the occasion to engage in follow-up negotiations on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), he said.
“The most important task across the Taiwan Strait is to promote the main items of the ECFA, including the early harvest list, investment protection, service trade, goods trade and dispute settlement. We should continue to work on it,” he said.
Taiwan’s free economic pilot zones, a project under which six harbors and the planned Taoyuan Aerotropolis will be designated as models of liberation, are the focus of Chen Deming’s trip.
Chen Deming’s delegation is to visit Pingtung County and Greater Kaohsiung today, then travel to Greater Tainan, Chiayi County, Greater Taichung and Hsinchu County, before returning to Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市).
Senior KMT members, including former vice president and KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) will meet with Chen Deming during his trip.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said he would also meet with the Chinese official and seek business opportunities for businesses in Taipei.