Student protesters repel police, hold Legislative chamber
March 19, 2014, 1:03 pm TWN
Taipei, March 19 (CNA) Hundreds of students opposing a trade pact with China repelled police who tried in two half-hearted attempts early Wednesday to dislodge them from the Legislative chamber the youths have occupied since late Tuesday.
The students used chairs and other objects to block all eight entrances to the chamber and the small number of police officers who managed to squeeze in through four of the entrances refrained from using brutal force to carry out their mission.
There was no sign of batons or shields, much less tazers or teargas.
In the fracas that mainly involved shouting matches and pushing, the students chanted "Police, back off" repeatedly. At one point, a woman's voice was heard on megaphone: "Don't hit the police."
Politicians including Su Tseng-chang, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and several of the party's lawmakers were present to lend their support to the students and likely serve as a deterrent to the police.
News about police attempts to take back the chamber brought more protesters to the Legislative Yuan located in downtown Taipei as the students posted up-to-the-minute information on social network sites.
After the first attempt began at 3:37 a.m., two men in black T-shirts climbed up the portico of the main building and tore down the plaque of the nation's legislature.
The plaque was thrown to the ground, next to placards denouncing the administration's attempts to have the pact on liberating the service industry approved by the Legislative Yuan.
The storming of the Legislative Yuan took place after a Tuesday night rally organized by the Democratic Front Against Cross-strait Trade in Services Agreement outside the complex to protest the move by lawmakers of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) to end a drawn-out review process by Legislative committees.
Four police officers were injured as they tried to stop the students from entering the fenced complex.
After taking the chamber, the students said they will hold it through Friday, when the Legislative Yuan is due to hold its next floor meeting. Until the storming took place, the floor meeting appeared to present a chance for the KMT lawmakers to have the trade pact approved by the Legislature.
The opposition accused the KMT of going back on a consensus reached in previous cross-party consultations last June and violating the democratic process by unilaterally declaring Monday that the review process had come to an end.
The DPP and the protesters demand that the pact be returned to the committee stage where it can receive an item-by-item review.
KMT whip Lin Hung-chih said Tuesday the DPP's intention is not to review the pact but to prevent it from ever taking effect.
The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou has said little on the incident at the Legislative Yuan, with only a presidential spokeswoman urging all sides to express views in a reasonable and moderate manner.
The Presidential Office respects the autonomy of the Legislative Yuan and believes the Legislature will handle the situation in an appropriate way, said Garfie Li.
After a night of protest and excitement, many of the students slept in chairs or on the floor of the Legislative chamber, with piles of chairs blocking the entrances.
Outside, thousands more surround the complex in an event that is without precedent in the history of Taiwan's Legislature.