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Overseas offices hold meetings with students on trade pact: MOFA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's representative offices in Europe have held talks with overseas Taiwanese students in the hope of quelling doubts on the government's ongoing effort to push through a cross-strait service trade pact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

Speaking during a press conference, MOFA's Department of European Affairs Director-General Zhang Ming-zong (張銘忠) said Taiwanese students in several European countries have held demonstrations or sit-ins recently to voice their support for the ongoing student-led protest at the Legislative Yuan, where demonstrators are demanding that the government scrap a service trade agreement with China.

Similar student-led events were held at Trafalgar Square, London and the Place de la Bastille in Paris recently, Zhang said.

Zhang said the ministry respects students' right to voice their opinions on the issue via peaceful demonstrations.

However, as representatives of the R.O.C. Government, prior to the holding of the events, several of Taipei's offices in Europe have talked to the students who were planning to take part, explaining to them the government's stance regarding the pact with the aim of clearing doubts over the agreement, Zhang said.

For instance, Michel Lu (呂慶龍), Taiwan's top envoy to France, held a seminar with students on March 22, prior to their scheduled sit-in, even though ultimately the students still decided to hold the rally as planned, according to Zhang.

Zhang said all of the student events in Europe held to support the protest in Taipei were conducted peacefully and rationally. The ministry will not hinder the freedom of speech of these Taiwanese youth, he added.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly college students, have occupied the Legislature in Taipei since last Tuesday, demanding a dialogue with President Ma Ying-jeou to publicly discuss the service pact, which they believe was reached without sufficient transparency.

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