03/19/2014, 00.00
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Taipei: students oppose China trade deal, occupy parliament

by Xin Yage
Thousands of young people stop parliament to express opposition to the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement with mainland China. As police surround the protesters, political leaders appeal for calm.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - A large number of college students stormed Taiwan's parliament in Taipei last night to protest a new trade deal with mainland China, which they fear might kill jobs on the island.

As for publication, the students have been holding the building for more than 18 hours in protest against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (岸 服务 贸易 协议), which Taipei has discussed with Beijing.

The bill to adopt the deal went through the first of three readings on Monday, triggering the reaction of the opposition and its supporters.

For the latter, the ruling Kuomintang moved unilaterally to force the trade deal to the legislative floor without giving it an item-by-item review in violations of existing rules.

A second reading is scheduled for Friday, but students say they will occupy the chamber until deal is examined clause-by-clause.

"We do not believe might is right," said a student to the crowd outside Taiwan's Legislative Yuan. "We want everything done by the book."

Yesterday, students took over parliament's main chamber as thousands more seized the park in front of the building to show their opposition to a deal that they would be a job killer.

Police prevented further student action outside the building to prevent things from getting out of control.

Across the island, many are in fact concerned about the fate of small businesses, which may go under because mainland competition.

The new deal would continue on the path set by the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA or-两岸 经济 合作 架构 协议), designed to remove trade barriers between the island and the mainland.

Under the terms of the new agreement, the mainland will open 80 industries to Taiwanese investment whilst Taipei will do the same in 64 industries.

Polls shows that most Taiwanese back the government against the opposition, afraid that greater isolation for the island could lead to loss of world markets and international competitiveness.

Known for his conciliatory style, parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) called on police and protesters to show "calm, reason and self-restraint" in order to handle the issue peacefully and meet protesters' demands.

Without using tear gas, shields, batons or weapons of any kind, police this morning tried to take back the chamber, whose eight entry points protesters had blocked with chairs and other heavy objects. However, in order to avoid unnecessary clashes and casualties, it later withdrew.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who appeared for a few minutes at an impromptu press conference, called for peaceful solution to the issue. Although he said  that he would not interfere in the affairs of the legislature, he did acknowledge that some of the points made by protesters were valid.

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