Riot police cleared thousands of protesters from Taiwan’s cabinet compound by firing water cannons and striking people with batons, in clashes that began just after midnight and ended early this morning.
Bloodied protesters were dragged from the compound and scores were hospitalized after Taiwan Premier Jiang Yi-huah ordered the eviction. The demonstrators, who demanded the cancellation of a trade agreement with China that the ruling Kuomintang party has advocated, overran the compound around 8 p.m. yesterday.
Taiwan’s Legislative President Wang Jin-pyng invited lawmakers from the Kuomintang and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party to discuss ways to resolve the dispute over the trade deal, DPP caucus leader Ker Chien-Ming said by phone.
The occupation was the first time protesters have overtaken the Executive Yuan, where the cabinet has its offices. It was the second government building occupied this month in demonstrations sparked by Kuomintang efforts to push through passage of the pact that would open services trade with China. Students have held the legislative chamber since March 18.
A total of 110 people, including demonstrators and police, were injured as of 11 a.m. today, Premier Jiang said in a briefing broadcast live on ERA TV news station. About 60 were arrested for questioning, cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said today by phone.
Taiwan’s benchmark Taiex stock index rose 0.3 percent today to 8,605.38. The Taiwan dollar strengthened 0.2 percent to NT$30.583 against the U.S. dollar at the midday break, according to prices from Taipei Forex Inc.
“Over the long term, the impact is limited, as the pact will pass” the legislature, said Michael On, president at Taipei-based Beyond Asset Management Co. President “Ma Ying-jeou will push it through. His government would collapse if he didn’t.”
Students charged into the building where Taiwan’s legislature meets last week, alleging the Kuomintang party was bypassing proper procedures as it sought passage of the services trade pact. They’ve called on Ma, who is also head of the ruling party, to apologize and to discuss the services trade deal.
Ma spoke yesterday in an attempt to assuage concerns about the trade pact. “Regional economic integration is an unstoppable global trend,” he said in a televised briefing.
Ma also rebuffed the student protesters’ demands, saying an earlier meeting Jiang held with them wasn’t productive. A separate group of protesters overran the cabinet complex after Ma’s briefing by climbing over fences and breaching barricades.
“The government can’t accept anyone impeding its ability to function by barging in and charging its buildings,” Ma said today, according to a Presidential Office statement.
Leaders from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party joined protesters at the cabinet compound to show support and urged restraint, local television footage showed. The best way to resolve the conflict is for the president to address the students’ criticism, the DPP said in a statement, rather than through a police eviction.
Military police were also summoned to bolster security at Ma’s presidential office and residence, according to CtiTV.
The services trade agreement, which was signed in June, sparked anger after ruling party lawmakers allegedly reneged on a promise to conduct a line-by-line review of provisions signed by trade negotiators from China and Taiwan. The Kuomintang has a majority of seats in the legislature. The opposition says it wants to amend provisions related to the banking and e-commerce industries, among others.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Culpan in Taipei at firstname.lastname@example.org