ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
500,000 rally at Taiwan's Presidential Office
Publication Date : 31-03-2014
Hundreds of thousands of student-led protesters dressed in black gathered along Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in a protest over President Ma Ying-jeou and the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement.
Student activist Lin Fei-fan claimed over 500,000 people attended the rally, while protesters outside of the Legislative Yuan claimed that they numbered over 700,000 people. The National Police Agency (NPA), however, estimated the number of protesters to be 116,000.
During the rally, thousands of people shouted “reject the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, defend democracy”, and “legislate the bill first then deliberate the agreement”.
The rally is a start: Linv
While addressing the crowds at Ketagalan Boulevard, Lin said the demonstration yesterday was not an end but a start, noting that people should exchange contact information with the person standing next to them and arrange working rosters so people can take turn to go to the Legislative Yuan.
Lin said the reason why the protesters occupied the Legislative Yuan was because the administration has lost its legitimacy.
Lin reiterated the protesters' four demands of the Ma administration, which are rejection of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, introduction of the Bill on Pacts between Taiwan and China — a draft bill proposed to supervise the signing of agreements with China — urging the government to hold a “public constitutional meeting”, and demanding all lawmakers listen and stand by people's side.
The rally has been seen as a protest of Ma's press conference on Saturday, where Ma made remarks that protesters described as an “off-the-point” response to their demands.
On Saturday, Ma said that the government cannot retract the agreement. He said, however, that the ruling party is willing to review the agreement article-by-article in cross-committee deliberations at the Legislative Yuan.
The student activists said Ma failed to understand their demands despite their almost two weeks of protests.
Around 4:20pm, Lin's co-leader Chen Wei-ting arrived at the Presidential Office from the Legislative Yuan. Chen said that Ma has not responded to the protester's “core” demands at all.
Not refusing interactions with China: Chen
“We are not saying that we refuse to interact with China, but we demand ... that all Taiwanese can participate in the decision-making process on how to interact with China,” Chen said.
“The demonstration today is not just about being against the service trade pact, it is a process in which people strengthen the value of democracy,” Chen stressed.
Lin said that too many people have been focusing on him and Chen, noting that the demonstration does not “belong” to either of them, but to all the students and people participating in the protest. “People are the leader of this demonstration, and the Ma administration needed to be led,” Lin said.
Lin urged President Ma to face the protesters, offer a direct response and make specific promises to people.
The mass rally ended at 7:45pm, and most of the protesters had left the area by 8pm.
Hundreds of student activists have been occupying the Assembly Hall of the Legislative Yuan since March 18 in protest of Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Chang Ching-chung's March 17 decision to cut short the deliberation of the service trade pact, sending it straight to the Yuan Sitting.
Over 2,000 protesters attempted to occupy the Executive Yuan on March 23, but were evicted by riot police on the premier's orders.
The Taipei City Police Department Zhongzheng First Precinct said it received intelligence regarding threats to Lin and Chen, noting that it immediately dispatched police officers to protect Chen and Lin.