LEGISLATIVE SIEGE: Police bolster security as president snubs students

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Mar 22, 2014 - Page 3

Police reinforced security in the area surrounding the Presidential Office yesterday as protesters expressed regrets over President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) failure to meet their demand by midday for a detailed review of a controversial service trade agreement with China.

Barbed-wire barriers were set up on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building, as well as at the nearby 228 Peace Park. Police also increased their presence at the headquarters of the Executive Yuan about a kilometer away.

Meanwhile, traffic restrictions were expanded as the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) mobilized its own protest rally outside the Legislative Yuan.

The traffic controls covered Zhongshan S Road, Qingdao E Road, Zhengjiang Street, Jinan Road, Ketagalan Boulevard, Chongqing S Road and Aiguo W Road.

Restrictions could be expanded to cover parts of Civic Boulevard, Zhonghua Road, Heping W Road and Jinshan S Road, police said.

Security around the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan were being bolstered as the protesters — mostly students — voiced their disappointment at Ma’s lack of response to their demand.

Hundreds have occupied the Legislative Yuan since late Tuesday in reaction to a plan by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to speed the cross-strait service trade agreement through the legislative process. Thousands more surrounded the legislative complex in a mostly peaceful confrontation with police.

Meanwhile, an official, who requested anonymity, said yesterday that the current session of the Legislative Yuan, scheduled to end in late May, might have to be extended to mid-July due to potential repair work related to the continued occupation of the legislative chamber by protesters.

The official estimated that the hundreds of demonstrators had caused NT$100 million (US$3.27 million) in damage to tables, chairs, electronic voting machines and other electronic devices since they took over the legislative chamber and barricaded themselves in on Tuesday night.

However, Tsai Wei-min (蔡衛民), head of the legislature’s general affairs division, said that an accurate estimate of the damage would not be available until after the protest comes to an end.