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Undeterred by rally, president urges protesters to end occupation
Central News Agency
2014-03-31 04:55 PM
Taipei, March 31 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou renewed his call Monday for student protesters to end their nearly two-week occupation of the Legislature while repeating his offer for diaolgue in an "open and transparent" manner to end the stand-off. Meeting with a group of business leaders, Ma said his government has been very attentive to protester demands and forthcoming in its response, citing the decision by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), which the president chairs, to allow the trade-in-services agreement with China to undergo an item-by-item review in the Legislature. The administration has also accepted their calls for legislation to give closer scrutiny to all cross-strait agreements, with the Mainland Affairs Council expected to present its proposed version of such a bill April 3 in the hopes of being enacted this legislative session. The president seems unwilling to budge on their demands that the services pact be "returned" to the Cabinet from the Legislative Yuan, however. He reiterated his stance that doing so would "do too much damage to Taiwan" and be "very unfavorable to the economy." He contended that withdrawing the pact for renegotiation with China will make Taiwan lose credibility in its push for economic liberalization, which he said will hamper efforts to join regional economic integration initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Hundreds of students have been occupying the Legislature since March 18 in protest of the government's handling of the trade-in-services pact with China. They have accused Ma of being insincere in communicating with them and have vowed to continue the occupation until their demands are met. In an attempt to step up their pressure on the government, the students expanded to a massive rally in front of the Presidential Office Sunday, which organizers claimed brought 500,000 participants though police estimated only 116,000. Lin Fei-fan, a graduate student and the "commander" of the Legislature sit-in, said Monday that protesters will not leave the lawmaking body until Ma makes "substantive commitments" and shows "true goodwill" in regard to holding dialogue. The protesters have called on Ma to promise that the KMT will put an end to the practice of taking disciplinary measures against legislators who do not toe the party line -- including on the services pact. They also want a "civic constitutional meeting" over the pact and to have it shelved until a law mandating full oversight of cross-strait agreements has been enacted. (By Lee Shu-hua, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Y.F. Low)
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