Taiwan protesters call for mass rallies

Students protesting against trade deal with China to escalate action after planned talks with president fall through.

Last updated: 27 Mar 2014 15:46
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Protesters have called for mass rallies this weekend after failing to reach agreement with the government [AFP]

Taiwanese protesters opposed to a trade pact with China have vowed to escalate their "war" with the government, calling for a huge weekend rally to increase pressure on President Ma Ying-jeou.

The student-led demonstrators who have occupied parliament for more than a week urged people on Thursday to take to the streets of Taipei on Sunday after failing to reach an agreement with Ma's Kuomintang government.

"There is no meaning to hold a dialogue ... We invite everybody to take to the streets on Sunday," student leader Lin Fei-fan said in a news conference outside parliament.

The pact, signed in July, is designed to open up further trade in services between China and Taiwan, which split 65 years ago from the mainland after a civil war.

Protesters, however, say the deal will damage Taiwan's economy and leave it vulnerable to political pressures from China.

They are now demanding the agreement be scrapped, and the passing of new legislation to monitor all agreements with China.

Failed dialogue

The calls for mass protests comes after Ma and student protest leaders agreed to talk on Tuesday, but failed to reach agreement on how the dialogue should be held.

Lin said the demonstrators were not going to give up until their demands were met. "The time we finish is when the Ma government bows its head. We are waging war on the Ma government," Lin said.

The protesters occupied parliament on Tuesday last week and swiftly drew a large crowd of supporters, with more than 10,000 congregated outside the building at one point.

A group of protesters on Sunday stormed government headquarters but were dislodged by baton-wielding police and water cannon.

The violent dispersal of the protesters has added to the tensions while Premier Jiang Yi-huah has defended the use of force, saying the government "cannot sit back and disregard actions that jeopardised national authorities and social order".

Ma has warned that failure to ratify the pact would be a grave setback to trade-reliant Taiwan's efforts to seek more free trade agreements and avoid isolation as regional economic blocs emerge.

The Taiwanese president has overseen a marked thaw in relations with Beijing since he came to power in 2008, pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in January 2012.

China still considers Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification.


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