Wed, Apr 09, 2014 - Page 4 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: Cabinet admits failing to foresee concern over pact

‘SENSE OF FEAR’:Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun said academics and media spread ‘fallacies,’ while the government communicated its side poorly

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

A protester takes photographs of posters displayed on a wall outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday, as students prepare to end their occupation of the legislative chamber tomorrow.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The government has “underestimated” the concerns the public has over the possible negative impacts the cross-strait service trade agreement might have on the country, Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said yesterday.

Sun said the government had failed to see “the nature of the issues” behind the opposition to the pact that culminated in the student-led Sunflower movement.

The main factor that drove students to join the protest was “a sense of fear,” Sun said at a briefing with foreign correspondents about the issue yesterday.

“Up to the present, we thought that the students might be afraid of mainland China or they might be worried about their own future. There was a sense of fear at play here and we didn’t anticipate from the outset,” he said.

Sun said the students have already developed “preconceived ideas” about the pact from research findings conducted by some academics.

However, Sun said that the government found that a lot of academic analysis presented in a variety of simplified “service trade agreement for dummies,” or “lazybone’s packs” (懶人包)” was “terribly wrong.”

Sun accused certain media outlets of conveying “fallacies” to the public, singling out the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper).

“When the fallacies have been ingrained in people’s minds as fact, it’s difficult to turn them around by telling them that the agreement is not what they think,” he said.

Not only did the government fail to make the public understand the agreement clearly and timely, its efforts to get its information about the pact widely available on the Internet in a way that would be attractive to young audiences have proved ineffectual, he said.

The government turned mostly to traditional media outlets and seminars to explain its stance on issues surrounding the pact, but those had limited effect, Sun said.

“In terms of communication with people about the cross-strait service trade agreement, we needed to conduct a thorough review,” he said.

Sun said the government must develop its ability to effectively communicate with people because it proved incapable of accessing a platform where it can engage with young people when they misunderstand the government’s policy.

“This was not the last time. We will encounter the same situation in the future if faulty communication with the public remains a problem,” Sun said.

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