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June 24, 2017

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Activists, gov't must cut through sound and fury in protest

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- These are the facts:

Over 200 protesters, mostly college students, on Tuesday broke through police lines and stormed the Legislative Yuan's Assembly Hall, blocking off all entrances to the main building with stacks of chairs to prevent police from entering.

Student activists proceeded to tear down the doors, destroy voting devices installed in the building and empty the drawers of several lawmakers' desks, including Kuomintang lawmaker Chang Ching-chung's (張慶忠). They took business cards out of Chang's drawer and posted a picture of their findings online.

Activists outside the Legislative Yuan tore down the official lettering hanging over the Legislature's main entrance, while other activists wrote graffiti on the walls and posted photographs of themselves drinking beer in the Assembly Hall.

So why did they occupy the Legislative Yuan?

During the last legislative session, lawmakers reached a cross-caucus resolution to conduct an article-by-article review on the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement. Instead of abiding by that resolution, Chang, who chaired a deliberation meeting on Monday, announced that the review process had been completed and subsequently submitted the pact to the Yuan Sitting. Afterward, the Executive Yuan expressed approval of Chang's actions.

Public outcry ensued.

It is a positive thing that so many young adults are stepping out of their classrooms to fight for what they believe in. Indeed, student activism has often been the catalyst for government reform. An example would be the Wild Lily Movement in 1990, which resulted in the abolishment of the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款), granting more rights and freedoms to the people.

However, there is a fine line between being passionate and being aggressive. There are other ways to protest against the executive branch and/or the Legislative Yuan apart from occupying the parliament

On Tuesday, student activists announced that they would be staying in the Legislative Yuan until Friday. But will this help them achieve their goals? So far, media attention has been focused on the vandalism. This would not have been the case if the activists had conducted themselves in a more dignified manner.

Three students from different universities who climbed into the Assembly Hall told The China Post that they haven't read the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement in its entirety. The students also admitted that they weren't exactly sure what Chang had done.

Many protesters probably have read through the articles and have a good grasp on the issues. However, it is equally likely that many haven't read the text nor understand the issues at stake. For what its worth, the "Occupy the Legislative Yuan" demonstration may prove to be a good opportunity to inspire more people to get better informed. Instead of waiting for lawmakers to review the agreement in depth, people can read the pact for themselves and come to a decision for themselves.

On the other hand, the Ma administration should face this protest seriously. At the end of the day, it was with the executive branch's approval that the agreement with mainland China was signed, and it should be the highest levels of government that face the people's anger.

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