Taiwanese Protesters Rebel Against Trade Pact with China

Photo Credits: Mandy Cheng, AFP
Photo Credits: Mandy Cheng, AFP

An alarming group of students and demonstrators recently burst into the Taiwanese parliament to protest against the China trade pact.

On the evening  of 19th March demonstrators occupied the Taiwanese parliament in order to stop the ruling party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (the KMT, Kuomintang of China, Zhōngguó Guómíndǎng, 中國國民黨) to further proceed with the approval of the trade pact with Mainland China.

The Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (Hǎixiá Liǎng’àn Fúwù Màoyì Xiéyì, 海峽兩岸服務貿易協議 ) is one of the biggest trade agreements signed between Mainland China and Taiwan. It was signed in 2010 so as to open the service sectors in order to improve cross-strait exchanges.  The agreement covers several service sectors such as business services, health-related services, transport services etc. Both parties had agreed on a set of rules in order to satisfy to transparency requirements, administration of regulatory measures, prevention of unfair competition, an emergency negotiation mechanism, free movement of payments and capital transfers.  According to the document that sealed this pact, Taiwan will open 64 services to Chinese investments while China will open 80 industries to Taiwanese ones.

The main purpose of this agreement is too deepen the economic ties between the two countries by opening their respective service market to the other and setting up rules for allowing service suppliers to do business without problems.

The demonstrators, however, do not agree with the idea; they see the trade agreement with the mainland as a threat, which is why they occupied the legislative body of Taiwan’s democracy for the very first time. They claim that the agreement will have a profound impact on Taiwan, a risk that could compromise its independence and open the possibility to see the country as part of China in a not-so-distant future. This scenario mobilised a group of almost 300 people. Four students and police offices were injured in the clashes.

Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (also referred to as Mainland China) have a very complicated relation because of their ruling parties. Both governments do not recognise each other. The Mainland has always considered Taiwan as a province, but the Taiwanese government and people consider themselves separated from the Mainland history and see themselves as the bearer of the true Chinese culture. The issue remains clearly unresolved to this day and is the main factor that triggered the protest.

The parties in the opposition, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, Mínzhǔ jìnbù dǎng,民主進步黨) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU, táiwān tuánjié , 台灣團結聯盟), due to a breach of an inter-party consensus by the Chinese National Party – which failed to review the pact clause by clause- has boycotted the plenary session since Monday. The oppositions have vowed to continue boycotting the plenary sessions until the ruling party goes back on its steps. So far, the Chinese Nationalist Party has shown no signs of being inclined to re-think their decision.

In the meantime, the demonstrators have set up a sit-in in the assembly, promising to stay there until the ruling party withdraws the agreement.

Ian Ssali.

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