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Protesters should make more realistic demands: trade groups

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Business and trade groups said that students should make more realistic requests about the cross-strait service trade agreement, and they will encourage President Ma Ying-jeou to hold a face-to-face dialog with student protesters.

Lai Chang-yi, (賴正鎰), chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce, R.O.C., said President Ma Ying-jeou had already shown a friendly gesture toward student protesters by indicating that the service pact may be reviewed “clause by clause” in the Legislature. Lai expressed his disapproval of student demonstrations, saying that if the mass protests continue, even Taiwan's tourism industry will be affected. The prolonged demonstration is likely to hurt Taiwan's economy, which only began to show improvement recently.

“Go back to school” was Lai's request to students assembled in front of the Presidential Office yesterday. “This is not a revolution,” Lai said. “Economic development needs to stay on track. Companies are still obliged to pay wages.” After 13 days of protests, Lai said that students should now retreat from the Legislative Yuan and return to school.

Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生), secretary-general of the Chinese National Federation of Industries, did not show support for the mass demonstration either. Tsai said that students should take a more pragmatic attitude about their claims, instead of making requests that can never be realized. Taiwan's democratic system requires legislators to keep a close eye on the administration of the government, Tsai said. Taiwan's economy would crumble if the government refused to sign any trade agreements with mainland China, he added.

Tsai said that during his trip to Southern Taiwan yesterday, he found that many local residents were not familiar with the actual content of the service trade agreement. Nevertheless, they hurried north to Taipei to participate in the protest, for they think it is a “fashionable” thing to do.

Lai and Tsai, along with 40 local business and trade group representatives, are scheduled to meet President Ma this morning to suggest a face-to-face direct dialog between Ma and student representatives.

Protesting students requested that the service trade agreement be revoked and that the negotiation should start over. It appears that the stalemate between protesters and the government will not be resolved in the short run.

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