04/01/2014, 00.00
TAIWAN
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"Sunflowers" and "bananas": Taiwan still divided by student protest

by Xin Yage
Groups of pro- China "trade unionists" seek to expel the young people who have occupied parliament. The opposition DPP party, supports and subsidizes the sunflower movement. Ma Ying jeou is open to dialogue . But the trade agreement with Beijing must go ahead in order not to lose competitiveness in Taiwan.

Taipei ( AsiaNews) - The tensions created by the "Sunflower" movement of students and supporters of the cancellation of a trade agreement between Taiwan and mainland China, show no sign of abating. This tension is also being fanned by the opposition the DPP party and is dividing Taiwanese society.

Today, the police stopped a group of self-styled "unionists" who wanted to "talk" with students to clear them from the parliament building, occupied since March 18. One of the leaders of the "union", is Chang An-lo, nicknamed the "White Wolf ", the former head of a criminal gang, now recycled as leader of a party that wants unification with China.

Meanwhile, a parody by famous political commentator Chiu Yi (邱毅) who belongs to the majority KMT party, is trending.  He coined the joke that the "Sunflowers" - the symbol chosen by the students - are in fact " bananas" provided them by the DPP.

The students want the trade agreement with China cancelled because they are afraid of losing jobs, but at a press conference the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China - (ROCCOC -中华民国 全国 商业总会) argued that industries and services would suffer serious damage if the deal is not passed. Chang- yi Lai (赖 正 镒) , president of the body , said that Taiwan should not be afraid to compete on a global level by allowing industries to establish permanent bases on the continent, from where they will have the opportunity to become global competitors.

On 29 March, President Ma Ying -jeou (马英九) held a lengthy press conference at the presidential palace, giving the opportunity to the many journalists to ask questions about the whole process on the legislative process and the relations with the students protest. Asked whether he knew that there were "many requests from students posted online? " he answered that he read blogs on the internet and was fully aware. Someone asked him if he does not feel guilty about "selling Taiwan off" [ to China ]. He replied: "What does that mean? Making trade agreements falls within the rules of the WTO, it is our duty". The president also reiterated that he was always open to face to face dialogue with the students.

During the press conference, near the presidential palace, under pouring rain that turned into a flood, there was a rally in support of the government decisions and against those who oppose the trade agreement (反反 服 贸) .

On March 30, at 1 pm a huge rally began in support of the students (反 服 贸) , with many people taking turn to address the crowds from a stage with a banner reading "Defend Democracy, withdraw the agreement!" (捍卫 民主,退回 服 贸) . Countless high profile figures addressed the crowd (above all shouting slogans, to tell the truth ) for people to take back control of Taiwan and not to leave it in the hands of a few.

Lin Feifan (林飞帆) summarized the four points of the government request: in addition to the already known three points (cancellation of the trade agreement - the approval of a law with prior approval on agreements with the mainland - support of all the legislators for the will of the people Taiwanese ) he also called for the opening of a " public constitutional meeting" (召开 公民 宪政 会议) by the government.

"We - he said - are writing history , Taiwan's future belongs to its people and to each of us" and he invited all those present " to support the protest by taking turns in the coming weeks to substitute those who occupy the parliament, until our objectives are achieved".

For their part , public safety personal offered to protection Lin Fei-fen and Chen Wei -ting (陈 为 廷), the two student leaders of the protest, to protect them from death threats they have received.

The large crowd, dressed in black T-shirts and yellow bands, far exceeded one hundred thousand participants, according to official numbers. The student movement reported about half a million people.

The impressions gathered among the people are different: there are those - the majority repeats the slogan "Ma Ying -jeou resign!" or other ready-made slogans -  who point out that the KMT has realized that he had done things alone, and after this protest has made a U-turn, promising to review the agreement article by article.

This week, the president also said he was open to the possibility of a supervisory law of all agreements with Beijing, as requested last Wednesday by student leaders.

Opinions regarding the students are also divergent. There are those who support them 100 %, who say that in essence they are right, but wrong in how they are going about their protest. Especially last week's expulsion from government buildings, which at first had garnered further support in reaction to the students being seen as targets of violence, but now is proving to be a sort of boomerang , because many do not approve of the occupation of the institutions. "If you demand respect for the law, they must first demonstrate that they respect it"  was the comment of a mother, who , however, took part in the protest.

A supporter of the students noted that in recent times President Ma and his party have made several mistakes with disarming naivety. "A problem for Ma Yijng -jeou - says one interviewee - is that not only is he the president, but also the elected leader of the KMT: this concentration of power in one person, makes him a target for just and unjust attacks, and attacks his popularity because young people hold him responsible for all the problems of Taiwan, as so much power is concentrated in one person. For this reason I protest with them".

Another lady comments: "I'm really pleased with the young people's awareness! It was time for someone to call out the president. But then they have to go back to school and leave the parliament, otherwise where are the legislators to discuss the new laws which the students themselves demand?".

 

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