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June 28, 2017

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Presidential Office still hoping to hold talks with activist groups

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Presidential Office said yesterday that it still very much wants to hold talks with the student activists occupying the Legislative Yuan, adding that it will continue to wait for their response.

Yesterday marked the ninth day since protesters stormed the Legislature and seized control of the main chamber in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from voting on the controversial Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement. By the following day, thousands had surrounded the entire complex.

Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), a representative of the student activists, said yesterday that the president, who doubles as Kuomintang (KMT) chairman, has been thwarting their attempt to get an oversight law for cross-strait agreements made by threatening ruling party lawmakers with party discipline.

In response, Presidential Office spokeswoman Garfie Li (李佳霏) stressed that the Presidential Office hopes to hold talks without preconditions.

When asked about student activists' demand to hold talks on an "open platform," Li said that if they accept the Presidential Office's invitation, talks will be held on the basis of transparency, with the press taking part.

This proposal should be consistent with their request for an "open platform," the spokeswoman added.

Regarding protesters' demand that the president promise not to use disciplinary measures against KMT lawmakers, a source within the Presidential Office said that the issue is not something the Presidential Office can comment on; however, party discipline is only brought up after caucus conferences have taken place.

The source added that a "cross-strait agreement supervisory act," which the student activists have been calling for, has not entered the legislative process, and that by bringing up the topic of party discipline, student activists may lead others to think that they're intentionally setting hurdles to talks with the president and/or finding excuses not to accept the president's invitation.

Regarding the failure of both ruling party and opposition lawmakers to reach a consensus, the source said that the president respects legislative autonomy.

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