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June 29, 2017

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Ma won't meet all activist demands

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday called for calm but refused to agree to all the demands of student-led protesters who have been occupying Legislature and are planning a major rally today in front of the Presidential Office in protest against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement.

Students watching Ma's press conference live on TV inside the Assembly Hall of the Legislative Yuan booed as the president refused to withdraw the services agreement from the Legislature and return it to the Cabinet — one of the major demands of the occupiers.

The students said Ma failed to understand their demands despite their almost two weeks of protests.

They condemned what they called the government's "violence" shown in its attempt to force through the service pact, and vowed to stick to their rally plan today.

"It has been nine months since the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement was signed in June last year. It is now being reviewed by legislators, and we agree that the Legislature should review it article by article," Ma said during the press conference.

"But we cannot agree to have the Cabinet withdraw the services pact; otherwise it would do too much harm to Taiwan," he added.

Ma agreed to the students' demand that a law be introduced to better monitor cross-strait negotiations, but he stressed that the screening of the services pact and the process of making such a law can proceed simultaneously.

The students are demanding that the review of the services agreement be put on hold until the monitoring law is passed. They also demand that Ma promise to give ruling Kuomintang lawmakers the total freedom to exercise their own will while writing the law and screening the services pact.

The students have vowed to stay in the Assembly Hall until the Ma administration meets all of their demands.

To mount further pressure on the government, they are calling on supporters to stage a protest in front of the Presidential Office today. They expect 250,000 people to participate.

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