President addresses protesters' demand for law on cross-strait pacts

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Sunday there is a law in place that ensures legislative oversight of agreements between Taiwan and China, and stressed that lawmakers of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) have also recently proposed a mechanism that would allow greater transparency. Ma said Article 5 of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area provides legal grounds for supervision, since the administration is required to send all cross-Taiwan Strait accords to the Legislative Yuan. If an accord involves an amendment of existing laws, it must be sent to the Legislature for approval, he said, citing the article. In cases where an agreement does not involve law amendment, however, the Act states that the Cabinet should send the accord to the Legislature only for record purposes, Ma said. In addition, he said, the KMT legislative caucus has presented a four-phase mechanism that seeks to ensure greater transparency of cross-strait accords, and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng has approved the proposal in principle. Under the proposal, the administration would first meet with lawmakers and explain the issues up for negotiation with China, then legislators would be kept abreast of the progress of the negotiations. In the third phase, the administration would brief the Legislature on the key contents, benefits and ways of implementation of an accord before it has been signed, and finally report to lawmakers on the execution of the agreement after it has been signed. The president's remarks at a news conference Sunday were his first public statements on the ongoing dispute over a service trade agreement signed between Taiwan and China in June 2013. Student-led protesters stormed the Legislative Yuan on March 18, one day after KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung announced that the services trade agreement had passed the legislative committee review stage and would be moved to a floor session. Since then, the protesters have been occupying the legislative chamber, calling for Wang to nullify the decision by Chang, a convener of the Internal Administration Committee. The protesters are also demanding that Ma's administration withdraw the accord and institute a law governing supervision of cross-strait agreements. After a non-productive meeting with the protesters Saturday, Premier Jiang Yi-huah held a news conference at which he took a similar stance as Ma on the issue. (By Hsieh Chia-chen, Lee Shu-hua and Kay Liu)