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Premier urges against strikes, school boycotts

TAIPEI--Premier Jiang Yi-huah on Monday warned against a call for worker strikes and boycotts of classes over the service trade pact with China on the grounds that the demonstrations could hurt the economy and social stability.

While most of the protesters who took to the Cabinet headquarters in downtown Taipei late Sunday had been driven away by police early Monday, some went to join or rejoin student-led demonstrators who had been occupying the Legislature since March 18, Jiang said at a press conference.

Those who returned to the Legislature just a block away went on to urge people around Taiwan to leave the office and classroom behind and take to the streets to protest the trade-in-services agreement Taiwan and China signed last June, he said.

Jiang called for everyone to remain rational and calm, and said that while there is a difference of opinion over the pact, it is not an excuse for boycotts and strikes that could escalate tensions and throw the country into chaos.

Student-led protesters stormed the legislative chamber late on March 18 to block approval of the pact, following a move by lawmakers from the ruling Kuomintang a day earlier to fast-track it to a vote on the legislative floor, where they have the majority.

A group of the protesters moved to occupy the Executive Yuan building late Sunday after the government rejected their demand to retract the agreement.

The agreement to remove barriers between service operators in Taiwan and China has been stalled in the Legislature by opposition lawmakers who fear it will allow China to exercise a stronger hold over Taiwan's economy and hurt local small- and medium-sized businesses.

KMT Willing to Debate Controversial Pact: Premier

President Ma Ying-jeou's administration welcomes a debate with opposition leaders on a controversial trade in services pact with China that has sparked student-led protests and the occupation of government buildings, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Monday.

Speaking at a press conference, Jiang said Ma, Vice President Wu Den-yih and himself are open to debating the agreement with Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang, former party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen or other key opposition figures.

The government has never ruled out the possibility of a debate to expose the pros and cons of the pact and promote an exchange of ideas between political parties and different sectors of society, Jiang said in response to a question on whether debates would help ease public misgivings and break the standoff.

Student-led protesters stormed the legislative chamber late on March 18 to block legislative approval of the pact, after ruling Kuomintang Legislator Chang Ching-chung suddenly announced a day earlier that the agreement had passed the committee review stage and would be moved to the full floor for a vote.

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