Consecutive protests against the cross-strait service trade agreement are to be held by various civic groups this weekend to highlight what critics say are the pact’s violation of democratic principles and the potential harm it may cause to the local service sector.
More than a dozen groups, led by the Cross-Strait Agreement Watch Association, yesterday announced they planned to protest against the pact between 6pm and 10pm on Sunday in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, one day before the beginning of an extra legislative session during which the deal is to be reviewed and voted upon.
Preceding Sunday’s protest will be a demonstration planned by the Taiwan Association of University Professors that is to be held on Saturday on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office over the same concerns — namely, the opacity of the pact negotiation process and the possible negative impacts of an influx of Chinese investment.
“The demonstration is necessary because it seems to us that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has been trying to brainwash us all to support the pact with the explanatory sessions it has been holding across the country and to push the agreement through the legislature before the end of the extra session,” Taiwan Democracy Watch convener Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) told a press conference.
Citing the recent series of controversies caused by land expropriations, urban development projects and cross-strait engagement, which many claim are violations of Taiwanese’s constitutional rights to property and self-determination, Hsu said the central and local governments’ practices “have derailed the nation from the track of democracy and jeopardized the human rights of its citizens.”
Under the service pact, which is comprised of four chapters and 24 articles, 64 local service industry sub-sectors will be opened to Chinese investment, while China will open up 80 industries to Taiwan.
Representatives of the civic groups organizing the rally said they opposed the opacity of the agreement and a possible push by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to fast-track the agreement directly to a second reading in the extra session.
They also demanded that the government hold public hearings on the potential effects cross-strait liberalization could have on each sector listed under the pact.
Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-lian (孫友聯) said that while almost all labor rights groups opposed globalization and free-trade agreements (FTA), the signing of an FTA between two entities should at least be debated and discussed because labor conditions will be harmed by virtually any form of relaxation in any sector.
However, the Ma administration never consulted the public or service-sector workers before deciding to negotiate the pact, nor while it proceeded to do so, Son said.
Separately yesterday, former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who has extensive experience as a trade negotiator for the government in the 1980s, said the service pact “has been nothing like the ones we have signed before.”
Trade liberalization always involves the redistribution of wealth and benefits among various social classes, which is why prior consultation, discussion and explanation with the public and lawmakers are important, she said.
Without this, it would be difficult for the people of Taiwan and lawmakers to accept the agreement as a package deal, Tsai said.
“It is strange that the Ma adminstration viewed people’s opposition and suspicion toward the pact as a negative force rather than bargaining chips it could use at the negotiation table,” she said.