DEMOCRACY IN ACTION:Activists inside the legislature formed small groups to discuss the trade pact, saying they wanted to show lawmakers what democracy is
By Loa Iok-sin / Staff reporter
Students opposed to the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement hold up their hands and chant slogans inside the legislature yesterday. Standing on the podium is one of the protest leaders, Lin Fei-fan, a graduate student of political science at National Taiwan University.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
Student activists occupying the legislative chamber yesterday announced that they would expand their protest, as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) had failed to answer their demands about the contentious cross-strait service trade agreement.
“As both Ma and Wang did not respond positively [to our demands], we have decided to expand our action by calling on the public to surround the Chinese Nationalist Party’s [KMT] local headquarters wherever they are,” Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), a graduate student of political science at National Taiwan University and one of the leaders of the protest, said at press conference in the legislative chamber.
“Meanwhile, the occupation and siege of the Legislative Yuan will not end. We will continue on and call on more people to join us until we receive positive responses from Ma and Wang,” he said.
Lin said the KMT caucus’ questionable passing of the trade pact at a joint committee meeting and forwarding it to the plenary session have created a constitutional crisis, “and now the government under Ma’s leadership has lost its legitimacy to govern, as it has not only refused to respond to questions from the public, but also threatened us with riot police and water cannons.”
Lin was referring to the increase in police reinforcement as well as the arrival of water cannons near the legislature last night. Police also surrounded the Executive Yuan with barbed wire and blocked several roads leading to the Presidential Office Building.
“We will continue to occupy the legislature. We will not retreat,” Lin shouted.
Despite the presence of 200 to 300 students in the legislative chamber and thousands of demonstrators outside the legislature, the protest was peaceful throughout the day.
Students activists in the chamber formed small groups to discuss issues about the trade agreement, saying they wanted to show legislators what democracy is.
“This is the time when a general assembly is supposed to take place, but we will be holding our own deliberative democracy meeting on the service trade pact here in place of a regular legislative meeting,” Chiang Ping-lun (江昺崙), a spokesperson for the protest told the crowd before the forum started. “We will show the lawmakers how to discuss such an important issue in a peaceful, rational and democratic way.”
They later wrote their conclusions on small pieces of paper, and posted the papers on the wall on the two sides of the podium to spell out the two English words “freedom” and “democracy” in capital letters.
Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智), a lawyer, later showed up to announced that more than 300 lawyers have joined a team of lawyers to provide legal assistance to the protesters.
“We would like to tell the parents of all the student activists that there are doctors and lawyers [supporting the protest] and we will make sure that your children will be able to go home safely,” he said.
He reminded the students that if they arrested, they should use their right to silence and demand to see a lawyer.
Meanwhile, Taipei District Prosecutor Office prosecutor Liu Cheng-wu (劉承武) filed a lawsuit against Ma and National Police Administration Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞), accusing them of manslaughter, harm and aggravated harm against others.
Liu said he had learned that police had been given orders to clear out the students occupying the legislative chamber.
The order would cause bloody conflict between students and police, Liu said, adding that if Ma and Wang Cho-chiun ordered a forceful clearing of the chambers, they would be overreaching their authority and contravening the Constitution.