President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday dismissed widespread accusations that the handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement lacked transparency, adding that it had undergone full scrutiny before and after it was sent to the legislature for review.
“Apart from 20 public hearings and 111 meetings held by the government to help the public gain an understanding of the agreement, 144 briefings were also held to allow more than 7,900 people to discuss and exchange views about it,” Ma said in his capacity as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) at a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting.
“This is the first time in the Legislative Yuan’s history that 20 public hearings have been held to clarify the public’s misgivings about a bill, so how can they accuse it of lacking transparency following such a strict review process, especially as lawmakers are now prepared to conduct a clause-by-clause review?” Ma asked after a keynote speech by Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) at the meeting.
Taiwan and China signed the service trade pact in June last year, with the two sides agreeing to open each other’s service sectors to the other.
However, clashes erupted in the Legislative Yuan on March 17 after KMT lawmakers forced the pact through a committee review for a legislative floor vote, leading to an ongoing occupation of the legislature’s main chamber by protesters, mostly college students.
The protesting students have demanded a public face-to-face discussion of the pact with the president and that a law be drawn up to monitor the signing of future agreements with China ahead of a review of the service trade pact in the Legislative Yuan.
In an effort to break the impasse in the Legislative Yuan, Ma agreed on Tuesday to meet student representatives. However, the students said that Ma has not showed “enough goodwill.”
Meanwhile, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who presided over two rounds of talks between KMT and Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, said yesterday that he would wait for a meeting between Ma and protest leaders before mediating another legislative session.