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September 22, 2017

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'Direct democracy' killing the representative system?

Activists protesting the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement stormed the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday and seized control of the Assembly Hall, marking a historic first in Taiwan politics.

As of yesterday, an estimated 200 activists have stationed themselves in the Assembly Hall, replete with sleeping bags and supplies, while thousands have surrounded the entire compound.

As a sign of protest against the pact, an activist slit his wrist yesterday morning and painted a heart symbol on a pillar in front of the Assembly Hall.

Things are heating up.

In spite of the administration's efforts to promote the pact, protesters decided to take matters into their own hands in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from ratifying it. Commentaries soon emerged online, discussing whether or not democracy had died or had been revived in light of recent developments.

The protesters argue that the pact is essentially a backroom deal between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party, and that the ruling party is trying to get it ratified without the consent of the people.

According to these activists, seizing control of the Legislative Yuan was a move intended to reassert the power of the people, to prove that the people reigned supreme in this nation.

Regardless of whether one is for or against the pact, it is clear that representative democracy has been brought to a standstill on this island, and in its stead has come "direct democracy," or so the activists and their supporters believe.

It is within people's rights to express themselves and exercise their democratic rights, but it is not exactly clear whether these activists actually represent "the will of the people." They are no doubt representing themselves, but do they represent the majority?

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