Taiwan recently made a trade pact with China; however, thousands are in disagreement with the decision and protested heavily in Taipei outside the Presidential Office Building. More than 210,000 protesters have gathered around the front of the building for a sit-in and the crowd is expected to continue to grow in size as hundreds more join in.
Why is everyone so upset about the trade pact? Those in opposition of the pact say there was a lack of transparency during negotiations, leaving many to believe China will have the upper hand over Taiwan as the two economies converge. In addition, they believe the new agreement will show favoritism to large conglomerate companies while small to medium-sized business are left to suffer and struggle.
Taiwan and China parted ways approximately 60 years ago and tensions have run high since then as Beijing vowed to take back Taiwan by any means necessary, including force. However, in recent years, the tensions have lessened and ties have improved. The trade pact would “open 80 of China’s service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwanese sectors to China.”
Sources say Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou believes the trade pact would be helpful to the country, bringing improvement to their sluggish economy. He went on to say that he believed failure to go through with the deal would only stand to tarnish Taiwan’s image as a solid trade partner. However, the protesters are not buying it and are demanding a retraction of the pact. They would also like a mechanism set up that would oversee all cross-Strait deals with Beijing to ensure China does not take over and end up controlling Taiwan. In addition, some protesters are so outraged that they are calling for President Ma Ying-jeou’s resignation.
For the past two weeks, students have occupied parliament, and numbers have reached as high as 20,000 as more join in to heavily protest Taiwan entering into a trade pact with China. The protest had been dubbed “the sunflower movement” with demonstrators banning together dressed in black and holding up sunflowers.
The Kuomintang ruling party (KMT) chairman, Mr. Ma tried to meet set up a meeting with the students where they could openly air their concerns; however, they declined and instead, issued demands that he not reprimand any KMT legislators who took their side in opposition of the trade pact.
President Ma Ying-jeou has agreed to support a law that would allow a thorough review of the trade pact in legislature but does not agree with the protesters demands to cancel the pact. So far, all attempts to reach a compromise have failed. However, the Kuomintang party is adamant about pushing it through.
The number of protesters has grown to the point that police have erected steel barricades in an effort to prevent them from reaching higher government buildings, which include the cabinet offices. Last Sunday, the students were successful at breaching the cabinet offices and police were forced to use water cannons to regain control.
President Ma Ying-jeou remains steadfast in his decision to move forward with the trade pact between Taiwan and China despite heavy protests and plans to have a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. At this time, no date or time has been announced for that meeting.
By Donna W. Martin