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July 23, 2017

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Carnation-weilding demonstrators take part in counter protest in Taipei

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Hundreds of people staged a carnation-themed gathering in Taipei Saturday to call for an end to an unprecedented protest and occupation of parliament initiated by students calling themselves the Sunflower Movement.

Dubbed "Carnation embraces Sun Flower," the campaign initiated by ruling Kuomintang Taipei City Councilor Lee Hsin urged the students to give up their occupation, which has ground the Legislature to a halt.

The student protesters have occupied the parliament's main meeting chamber since March 18 to voice their opposition to the way a trade in services pact with China has been handled by the government and ruling party.

But they are facing pressure from some segments of the population, including the wives of police officers on constant standby, to end their occupation.

"Go home, children," Lee said. "There is a better and more peaceful way to discuss the issue."

According to the organizers, carnations are a traditional symbol of a mother's love, and that should be the power behind facilitating dialogue between the students and government to break the impasse.

Event participants included family members of the police officers and citizens who said they were not impressed with how the Sunflower Movement has unfolded.

"The students' action has broken the law, which is just as important as democracy that we all uphold," said James Chiu, a Taipei citizen attending the gathering at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, some 800 meters from the Legislature.

The Carnation rally was among a few counter-protests that day to urge the students to end their occupation of the Legislature.

Still more family members of the police officers deployed around the Legislative Yuan and the nearby Executive Yuan also held a parade nearby to express their hopes that exhausted police officers can finally get a break.

"Many police officers, like my husband, have not returned home since March 18," said the parade organizer.

The protests against the service pact should come to an end, she urged. "Let the overworked police go home and rest."

Another group calling itself the White Justice Social Union, made up of university students and working adults, was also holding a protest at the Taipei Main Station to demand that the hundreds of Sunflower Movement protesters withdraw as they do not represent the voices of all of Taiwan's 23 million people.

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