Monday, March 24, 2014

Riot police crack down on Taiwanese protesters

Despite the escalation by an alliance against the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement, riot police used disproportionate force against unarmed young protesters at the Executive Yuan

The standoff over a controversial trade agreement between Taiwan and China that began on March 19 with the occupation of the legislature took a turn for the worse on March 23 after riot police turned on protesters who had occupied the nearby Executive Yuan, injuring several dozens.

Sunday night’s dramatic events occurred a day after an unsuccessful meeting between Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Lin Fei-fan, one of the leaders of the “sunflower revolution,” and following an international press conference by President Ma Ying-jeou, who refused to meet the group’s demands. Since March 19, tens of thousands of Taiwanese have protested outside the legislature, while about 300 — mostly students — remain shacked up inside the building.

Protesters at the Executive Yuan, 9:00PM
The alliance against the services trade pact, an amalgam of student organizations, lawyers, and civic organizations, had initially demanded that the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA), signed in China in June 2013, be reviewed clause-by-clause by the legislature, that a mechanism be set to monitor future agreements with China, and that President Ma apologize for the crisis. It later changed its demands by requesting that the pact be annulled altogether and calling for a national conference on the matter.

Many Taiwanese, including leading economists and politicians, fear that the problematic pact, which was negotiated behind closed doors, will damage vulnerable sectors of Taiwan’s economy. Others fear it plays into Beijing’s unification goals. Although 70 percent of the public favors a line-by-line review of the agreement, President Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) broke a promise on March 19 (following deadlock in the legislature) to hold such a review and sent it directly to a plenary session for a vote, sparking the crisis (the KMT has a legislative majority and the Central Committee has threatened any dissenter with suspension).

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here. (Photos by the author)

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