The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), students on campuses and academics yesterday pledged their full support for the “Occupy Legislature” student movement after the protesters denounced President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) response to their demands in an international press conference.
“There was nothing but lies and sophistry in the press conference. That is not acceptable to the DPP. I believe the students and the people of Taiwan find it unacceptable as well,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a press conference.
Su urged Ma to meet the students who have been occupying the legislative chamber and staging sit-ins around the Legislative Yuan’s compound since Tuesday.
He also called for the Ma administration to void the controversial cross-strait service trade pact and re-negotiate the pact with China, and agree to a proposed bill — initiated by the DPP in 2008 and blocked by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) 108 times — on monitoring cross-strait negotiations.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said Ma was “adding fuel to the fire” when he said that KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠), convener of the March 17 meeting, had no choice but to send the agreement to the plenary session because DPP lawmakers boycotted the proceedings.
The DPP supported all four demands submitted by the students, including the organization of a “civic constitutional conference” on the current crisis, DPP spokesperson Xavier Chang (張惇涵) added.
Separately, a group of 15 academics, including the dean of National Taiwan University’s (NTU) College of Social Sciences, Lin Hui-lin (林惠玲), and NTU economist Jang Shaw-ling (鄭秀玲), issued a joint statement accusing the KMT of the violation of democratic principles during the review process.
Jang echoed the demands made by the protesters, saying it would be important to legislate a monitoring mechanism on cross-strait deals before a substantial review of the service trade pact
Backing the student protesters in a statement, students of NTU’s College of Law said that the students were forced to take alternative action, in the form of occupying the legislature, because they had exhausted all other avenues.
Meanwhile, sit-in protests outside KMT local offices nationwide against the cross-strait service trade agreement continued yesterday.
Dozens of students began their sit-ins in Greater Kaohsiung on Friday night and about 600 people had gathered as of noon yesterday in front of the KMT office, carrying sunflowers as the symbol of the student movement against the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Protestors who listened to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) international press conference through a live broadcast all expressed their disappointment.
“I do not buy it,” some members of the crowd commented, adding that Ma did not understand the public’s concerns over the cross-strait service trade pact at all.
In related developments, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai’s (陳其邁) decision to convene the third joint review committee meeting today could incite more controversy, as the DPP and the KMT refuse to recognize the legality of the previous two review meetings, the DPP not recognizing the KMT meeting and vice versa.
It remains unknown whether KMT lawmakers would attend today’s meeting, but the KMT caucus previously said it would boycott further reviews because the pact is now in the plenary.
DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said the DPP caucus would not participate in inter-party negotiations convened by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) if the KMT refused to declare the March 17 meeting convened by Chang Ching-chung invalid.
Despite Ma and the KMT having promised a clause-by-clause review and vote on the deal in the plenary session, the pledge was not possible according to the Legislative Yuan’s regulations, DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said.
If the trade agreement is regarded as an executive order, as the KMT had claimed, it cannot be screened clause-by-clause, according to regulations, Gao said.
He added that the only possible scenario for the agreement to be reviewed line-by-line in a plenary session is that it is regarded as a treaty.
“However, that means the KMT’s claim that the agreement is an executive order cannot stand,” he said.
Additional reporting Rich Chang