President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration welcomes a debate with opposition leaders on a controversial cross-strait service trade pact with China that has sparked student-led protests and the occupation of government buildings, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference, Jiang said he, Ma and Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) are open to debating the agreement with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), or other key opposition figures.
Asked whether debates would help ease public misgivings and break the standoff, Jiang said the government has never ruled out having a debate to expose the pros and cons of the pact and promote an exchange of ideas among political parties and different sectors of society.
Student-led protesters stormed the legislative chamber late on March 18 to block legislative approval of the pact, after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) suddenly announced a day earlier that the agreement had passed the committee review stage and would be moved to the legislative plenary session for a vote.
The protesters have been camped out there since then, insisting they will not leave until their demands are met. Protesters occupying the Legislative Yuan have demanded a “civic constitutional meeting,” but Jiang yesterday said he had never heard of the term and was unsure of the nature of such a meeting.
Jiang said the student protesters have been making daily demands for six days, some of which have been later adjusted. He also added that he was not sure whether there have been calls for his resignation.
According to Jiang, administrative staff have been keeping up-to-date with the students’ demands daily.
He said that if the “civic constitutional meeting” is to be about sending back or reviewing the agreement with China, then he “does not fear any scrutiny,” adding that he would be willing to talk about every article in the pact.
Regarding constitutional issues, however, Jiang stated that they are separate topics and that during the past few days of demonstrations, he has yet to hear any requests in that regard.
Jiang said that the government has held national meetings before and knows how to convene similar conferences.
He said that a “civic constitutional meeting” would have to follow a similar procedure to the one used for the National Development Conference, which usually requires a few months of preparation.