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June 23, 2017

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Clear goals and solidarity key to civil disobedience

The "Occupy Legislative Yuan" student movement enters a critical phase today as the protesters' self-imposed 63-hour demonstration duration runs out. The occupiers made three demands at the beginning of their action: the government's rejection of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, responses from President Ma Ying-jeou and Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and the resignation of Premier Jiang Yi-huah.

At a press conference yesterday, the protesters updated some of their demands. They required direct dialogue with President Ma. They required Wang to nullify the resolution by the Legislative Yuan's Interior Affairs Committee meeting on March 17 (headed by ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Chang Ching-chung) to approve the service trade pact for a vote at the Yuan Sitting. They also want the government to stop engaging in any further trade talks with China before the Legislative Yuan completes a bill outlining the ground rules for such talks. The protesters vowed to take unspecified "further actions" if they receive no responses from Ma or Wang by noon today.

These demands are unlikely to be met in their entirety (if at all) and the protesters have to decide the direction and manner of their "further actions."

The China Post supports the rights of the protesters to express their opinion. Some commentators mentioned the chaos and vandalism by a number of occupiers at the Legislative Yuan as proof of the demonstrators' lack of respect of the legislative branch. That argument, however, rings hollow when lawmakers themselves have long been engaging in similar chaos and vandalism in their taxpayer-funded tenures.

It goes without saying, however, that demonstrators should take responsibility for their own actions. The demonstrators should be responsible for their conduct inside the Assembly Hall, not because they should respect the "sacredness" of hall but because they should respect their cause. They should also offer to cover the repair costs for the public property they damaged. The authorities, on the other hand, should hold the demonstrators financially responsible for nothing more.

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