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Taiwan students continue protest over trade pact

Posted on Mar 22 2014 | IANS

Taipei, March 22 : Taiwanese students Saturday vowed to prolong their protest after they failed to reach an agreement with the administrative chief over a trade pact with the Chinese mainland.

Jiang Yi-huah visited the protesters Saturday afternoon outside the legislative building in Taipei, where he had a talk with student leader Lin Fei-fan over the cross-strait service trade agreement that lasted about 13 minutes before the administrative chief was asked to leave, Xinhua reported.

Hundreds of students maintained a grip on the assembly hall for the fourth day Saturday, having stormed the building Tuesday evening in protest against the Kuomintang (KMT)'s decision to bypass a detailed review of the pact.

Protesters accused what they said was an undemocratic passing of the pact and feared its implementation would hurt Taiwan's business and cause job losses. During Saturday's dialogue, Lin demanded the rejection of the pact and passage of a bill monitoring future cross-strait pacts.

Jiang told the crowd that the administrative authority had no plan for retracting the pact, but recognised the need for a detailed review.

"The administrative Yuan believes the pact will be greatly beneficial to Taiwan's future liberalisation and internationalisation," Jiang said. "But we do hope for a substantial and clause-by-clause review of the pact in the legislative Yuan."

The administrative chief added that the KMT had agreed on letting lawmakers and the public to gradually join in the supervision of the pacts. He also promised the administrative authority would not use police force to dispel protesters.

The disputed service trade pact was signed in June last year between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan as a follow-up to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). It aims to open up 80 of the mainland' s service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwan sectors to the mainland.

It entered ratification process in Taiwan a month later with 16 public hearings and detailed reviews by eight special committees. As the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been boycotting the reviews, the KMT Monday announced to bypass review and send it directly to the legislative floor, where the KMT holds the majority of the seats that can ensure its passage.

The action ignited protests by the DPP and college students, who Tuesday evening broke into the legislative building, tore down the plaque and occupied the assembly hall where lawmakers hold meetings.

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