Ma responds to student activists in press conference
By Katherine Wei ,The China Post
March 24, 2014, 12:32 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday called for the students currently occupying the Legislative Yuan to retreat and reiterated the beneficial points of the controversial Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement in response to the students' demands.
Six days after student activists and protesters stormed the Legislature and successfully seized the meeting chamber, Ma finally broke his silence in answer to demonstrators' demands that he"step out and discuss the issue face to face."
Holding an international press conference that drew many foreign as well as local reporters, Ma began by commending the students on their passion and the motives that moved them to claim the Legislative Yuan. "Everyone has been paying close attention to the ongoing protests ... I am just as concerned and anxious as all of you are ... I too participated in student movements when I studied in the United States," said Ma.
The student movement and youth participation is positive, as it indicates that Taiwan has a future, said Ma. "But Taiwan's democratic development did not come easy and should not be abandoned on a whim ... the rule of law serves as the foundation for democracy and of our nation; without law, there would be no democracy," the president continued, hinting that the students were breaking the foundation of democracy by illegally occupying the Legislative Yuan.
The pact was to be reviewed by the Legislature, which was unable to do so as the students had vented their displeasure by seizing the Legislative Yuan and stopping the Legislature from operating for five days, said Ma. "(These actions) have severely affected the operation of our government branches ... Is this the kind of democracy we want?" Ma asked. "As the president of the Republic of China, I must defend democracy and the rule of law."
Competition with South Korea
The president stressed that the signing of the pact meant more pro than cons for Taiwan, as 70 percent of the island's economic growth relies on external trade. "With its small and open economic system ... the pact is signed for the sake of Taiwan's economic future, as other countries are hesitant to sign free trade agreements with us due to our diplomatic situation," Ma pointed out, adding that the pact would entice more countries to sign economic agreements with Taiwan.
Ma also dedicated a large portion of his speech to comparing Taiwan to its main economic competitor, South Korea; using the difference in the tariff treatment both receives from Canada as an example. "South Korea enjoys benefits from signing FTAs that cover over 40 countries ... how are we to compete with Korea?" Ma asked.
"A high-ranking official once said that if the cross-strait trade pact is not passed, Korea will be thrilled ... while our businesses become less competitive," said Ma.