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May 30, 2017

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Major events of Taiwan's Sunflower Movement

TAIPEI -- The student-led occupation of Taiwan's Legislature over a trade-in-services agreement with China that began March 18 is due to end on April 10.

The following are major events in the 23-day protest dubbed "the Sunflower Movement":

March 17 — In a chaotic joint session of eight committees of the Legislative Yuan, Chang Ching-chung, a ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker and convener of the meeting, declared the review of the much-delayed agreement was over and the accord submitted to the Legislature's plenary meeting for reference. The move triggered angry response from activist groups as well as the opposition parties.

March 18 — Hitherto little known groups such as the Democratic Front Against Cross-strait Trade in Services Agreement held an evening rally outside the Legislative Yuan, which turned into a storming of the Legislature by hundreds of protesters. Using swivel chairs and other furniture, they blocked themselves in the main legislative chamber and police attempts overnight to evict them were unsuccessful.

Hundreds of people — mainly students — who support the occupation gathered outside the legislative compound. The protesters' first demands included Premier Jiang Yi-huah's resignation, an apology from President Ma Ying-jeou and a return of the service trade pact to an item-by-item review by the legislative committees.

March 21 — Ma called a meeting with Vice President Wu Den-yih, Jiang and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng in a bid to end the confrontation but it was canceled after Wang excused himself, saying in a letter that the nature of the dispute is different from one that would require the intervention of the head of state. Calls from Ma failed to change his mind.

March 22 — Jiang became the first ranking administration official to see the protesters. He was met outside the Legislative Yuan by Lin Fei-fan and other student leaders, who demanded that, for a dialogue to happen, the premier should promise first to withdraw the service trade pact from the Legislature and to enact a new law aimed at providing close scrutiny of all agreements with China. The brief encounter broke up after Jiang rejected setting preconditions for a dialogue.

March 23 — Ma called an international press conference, in which he stressed the importance of the service trade agreement to Taiwan's economy and its efforts not to be marginalized. In response, the student-led movement said the president did not show any sincerity in having a dialogue with the protesters.

Student leader Lin issued four demands, which included a civic conference on constitutional government, legalizing the mechanism for monitoring cross-Taiwan Strait agreements, no action on the service trade pact until the new oversight law is enacted and a pledge by all legislators to work on the new legislation first.

In the evening, hundreds of protesters broke into the Executive Yuan compound, which is about two hundred meters from the Legislative Yuan. Dozens of them broke windows and damaged doors to enter the main building.

As police prepared to evict the intruders, a few politicians of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) went to the scene to lend their support to the protesters. They included current and former party bosses Su Tseng-chang, Tsai Ing-wen and Frank Hsieh.

After reinforcements arrived, police began removing the protesters after midnight, first by carrying them away one by one but later started to use water cannons. More than two hundred people, including protesters and officers, were injured.

The compound was cleared of demonstrators by daybreak. Protesters alleged police brutality and "state violence." Government officials said the police had exercised a high degree of self-restraint.

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