Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Protesters Occupy Taiwan Parliament over China Trade Pact

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Protesters Occupy Taiwan Parliament over China Trade Pact

Article excerpt

Hundreds of protesters are occupying Taiwan's parliament to demand an item-by-item review of a stalled trade liberalization deal with China, an unusually aggressive move to seek more scrutiny for the pact before opening up sensitive segments of the economy.

After 100 university student protesters broke a glass door at the parliament building in Taipei late Tuesday and took over the legislative podium, supporters from around the island joined them Wednesday and clashed with about 2,000 police officers.

The occupation was unusual even for a city accustomed to protests and a parliament where lawmakers occasionally brawl with one another. But it signals anger with President Ma Ying-jeou's ruling Nationalist Party for scheduling a vote without an item-by-item review of the deal that the main opposition party was expecting. The trade deal was signed in June 2013, but has not yet been ratified.

Before the occupation, protesters were working with the opposition as it drums up support for year-end local elections that could influence the 2016 presidential race. The opposition takes a guarded view of closer ties with China, a political rival since the 1940s.

"They didn't follow rules and declared the trade deal was okay for the assembly," says Nathan Liu, an international affairs professor at Ming Chuan University in Taiwan. That genuinely angered some students who view the Nationalist Party as ruling with a heavy hand. The students may also have been encouraged by opposition leaders, Mr. Liu says.

Mr. Ma's approval ratings have fallen below 20 percent over the past year in part because he is perceived as too cozy with China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan.

The opposition party had asked for the review to protect Taiwan service sectors that could be hurt by competitors from the much larger mainland Chinese market, but the Nationalists felt that an item-by-item vote would take too long and that eight public hearings on the pact sufficiently got the word out about the deal's content. …

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