Climbing over the fence of the Legislative Yuan and blocking the traffic on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, demonstrators against a proposed service trade agreement with China yesterday attempted to make their voices heard by the government.
“The government tells us that the impact of the service trade agreement on Taiwanese workers will be minimal since only white-collar or management-level employees from China will be allowed to come to Taiwan,” Fu Jen Catholic University student Cheng Shih-hua (程士華) told the crowd sitting on the boulevard under the rain in front of police barricades.
“How would it not impact Taiwanese workers if Chinese managers were to lower working conditions?” Cheng asked.
National Taiwan Normal University student Lin Wei-jen (林韋任) expressed concern that the trade agreement would accelerate the relocation of businesses to China.
“The trade agreement certainly has some benefits, since it would help businesses relocate to China, but this will lead to higher unemployment in the country,” Lin said. “The service trade agreement will therefore only benefit big companies, not ordinary workers.”
As some of the students spoke, Zhongzheng First Precinct Police chief Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧) declared that the assembly was illegal and asked the protesters to disperse immediately.
The students said they were originally planning to voice their opinions at public hearings in the Legislative Yuan, but they were stopped outside the legislative complex and clashed with police when they tried to force their way in.
“What kind of public hearing is it that is held behind closed doors and does not allow the public to attend?” Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), a graduate student of political science at National Taiwan University, said as he and more than 30 others who climbed over the fence were surrounded by police at the front entrance of the legislature.
“The Legislative Yuan has no right to stop us from attending public hearings,” Lin said.
Lin said they had submitted a list of 20 people, hoping that they would be allowed to attend the public hearings, but the request was denied.
“The government is only acting as if it is involved in a democratic decisionmaking process because the people have asked for it, but apparently, it does not mean it,” Lin said. “It is especially ridiculous when the government is holding eight public hearings — all behind closed doors at the Legislative Yuan — in only three days.”
Unable to attend the public hearings, the students accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of disrespecting the democratic process and turned around and marched to the Presidential Office Building.
Aside from an incident in which an unidentified woman walked up to the demonstrators and grabbed a banner they were holding, which triggered some pushing and shoving, the assembly in front of the Presidential Office Building was peaceful.