Fri, Mar 28, 2014 - Page 3 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: INTERVIEW: Activist-academic explains student movement

Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang said in an interview with Tzou Jiing-wen, a staff reporter with the ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister paper of the ‘Taipei Times’), that the occupation of the Legislative Yuan by student-led protesters showed that the younger generation in Taiwan is cognizant of the regression of the nation’s democracy and the harsh employment environment they face, adding that a realization of these problems is what galvanized many younger people to make an effort to step forward for the future of Taiwan

By Tzou Jiing-wen  /  Staff reporter

Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang talks to the Liberty Times on Saturday.

Photo: Lu Chun-wei, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): Why did the occupation of the Legislative Yuan happen? How did it happen?

Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌): People felt a mixture of emotions, including shock, anger and confusion, when the media reported that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) unilaterally announced on Monday [March 17] that the cross-strait service trade agreement had cleared the committee. We then started to think: “What are we going to do now?”

We and other civil groups held a press conference in front of the Legislative Yuan on Monday evening and criticized Chang’s actions as illegal. We were joined by some students, who left later with [National Taiwan University political science graduate student] Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) for a meeting of their own.

We were however in agreement that something had to be done, because Taiwan’s democracy was forced onto a ledge with no way out except a long drop.

On Tuesday [March 18], we saw the majority of news media reports that considered — with their titles and headline news — the “completion of the cross-strait service trade agreement review” as a fait accompli. The media’s response had gone hand-in-hand with the [President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s manipulated atmosphere claiming the pact was a done deal and no amount of protests would work to stop it.

However, Monday’s legislative committee meeting, from a point of view of constitutional and democratic law, was one that contravened the Constitution.

The importance of the pact could not be highlighted enough without a radical break in the situation as it stood then, and without sufficient acknowledgment, the mistake [of signing the pact] could not be rectified.

We met at an office near the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday afternoon to sketch out a rough plan and, as we were afraid of our plans being leaked, we only informed those who were close to us.

Quite by coincidence, an event titled “Democratic Unity Night” was being held that evening, hosted by Dennis Wei (魏揚), the convener of the Black Island Youth Alliance (黑色島國青年陣線), so we knew some of the students we knew would be attending that event.

We held some face-to-face meetings with other student groups and they agreed they would participate in the event.

We agreed to meet at certain point that night.

After Wei’s announcement, the students scaled the walls [of the Legislative Yuan] at Jinan Road and Qingdao East Road at about 9pm.

Although it may have happened in a short moment, in between, quite a lot of preparation was made.

LT: What are the goals the movement hopes to achieve?

Huang: The consensus among all the groups that have participated in the movement is that we are against the passage of the controversial and potentially far-reaching cross-strait service trade agreement under a method that so completely tramples the core democratic values of Taiwan.

We hope to let everyone clearly recognize that the decision to consider the pact as having been reviewed — a process of just 30 seconds — is a great blow against Taiwan’s democracy.

This message must be forcefully delivered.

The second goal of the movement is to get the the government to rectify the mistake, and this message must be every bit as strong as the first.

We feel we could most strongly send out this message at the Legislative Yuan. We cannot understand what the lawmakers we have elected are doing, and why they would allow such a ludicrous event to happen.

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