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Occupy the Legislative Yuan 佔領立法院


OneEye

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As I posted in a status update earlier, students and other protesters have occupied the Legislative Yuan (Taiwanese Parliament/Congress). A few hundred of them have been in there for over 24 hours now. Ventilation, plumbing, and power have all been cut off. Academics and other public intellectuals have been giving speeches outside the building in front of a crowd of over 10,000 that has gathered in support of the movement. The police tried to enter earlier today but were apparently forcibly removed from the site by the protesters outside. I've read that it was a half-hearted effort on the part of the police anyway.

 

People are upset over the Service and Trade Agreement (服貿協議), feeling that it is essentially a way for KMT officials to sell Taiwan to China and line their own pockets in the process. The KMT promised a clause-by-clause review of the agreement before passing it. Then on Monday, when the document was supposed to be reviewed, the Democratic Progressive Party (the opposition) began protesting it. Amidst the chaos, the KMT quickly announced that the discussion was over and that the agreement would be passed through for finalization. Of course, this angered the DPP because they saw it as a flagrant disregard for the democratic process. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has avoided discussing the agreement since it was first signed in secret last June. His approval rating in recent months have been as low as 9%. It's safe to say people here aren't happy with the current government.

 

Congress is scheduled to reconvene on Friday. The protesters plan to stay at least until then. They're calling for a clause-by-clause review of the document. They say that barring that, they're not leaving, and they're prepared for a long-term protest. If Ma fails to give a favorable response, they say they will "immediately increase the protest power." The last time I checked, Ma hasn't responded to the protest at all, although the KMT has condemned it as an illegal activity on the part of the DPP and the protesters. Ma announced earlier today that he wanted the Legislative Yuan to pass the agreement as quickly as possible.

 

Here's a Buzzfeed article that covers the basics. There's also a live feed here. One of the groups involved has a Facebook page here.

 

Edit: Just a few moments ago they announced that there are now well over 20,000 people gathered outside.

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The main trade agreement was signed in 2010. That was a bigger deal than this supplement on investments in the service sector. Yet in the 2012 election, DPP lost to the KMT, which suggests that the opposition to the trade agreement wasn't enough for the DPP.

I like a good government building takeover just as much as the next guy, but why wasn't the DPP able to win the election? I am not sure that engaging in street battles is going to expand their appeal. They should concentrate on winning the next election in 2016. If they win, they'll be able to repeal the trade agreement, or even go back to the pre-2008 policies of banning most visitors from the mainland and no direct flights.

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From what I understand, the catalyst was the secretiveness and the sudden pushing-through of the agreement without discussion on Monday. The flouting of the democratic process and the broken promises on the part of the KMT. These things shouldn't be ignored just because the DPP lost the election in 2012.

 

I don't know if "street battles" is an appropriate characterization of what's going on. It has been peaceful so far.

 

Sure, people could wait until 2016. But I think a lot of people feel like that would be too late.

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At 2:30 am, Wu'erkaixi 吾爾開希, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests, gave the following speech on site:

 

在關鍵的時刻,挺身而出,是光榮的。公民應該挺身而出表達自己的責任,這是台灣有希望的體現。1989年到現在25年,我那時是學生,學生關心國家關心命運的決心沒有死,在台灣繼續發揮,在中國也會繼續發揮,這就是民主的希望。學生的訴求是理性的,學生的表現方法是合乎民主規範的。在台灣現在的社會,台灣學生的表現令全世界敬佩。馬英九到這裡來給學生道歉。各位同學,所有關心這場運動的,感受的學生,在家裡電視機感動的人們做幾件簡單的事,告訴你的朋友你的家人,學生所作所為感動了你,做這件事,讓在上面沒辦法感動的人在茫茫人海中感受到那份感動。再做二件簡單的事,叫張慶忠這個人不要再起來當立委,如果還選得上的話,台灣民眾太弱了。江宜樺先生,江宜樺院長,你得到這樣的位置是政務命令,你的任務已經和人民如此違背,辭職吧。同學們,我用最後一句話來結束我的講話:「在關鍵的歷史時刻挺身而出,是光榮的。」我剛從新竹清華大學過來,陳為廷的老師給我傳達一個訊息,這就是我要傳達的訊息--加油!

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Hasn't the agreement been public since it was signed last year? I see the full text on Wikipedia and a summary of the public debates about the agreement (both for and against) dating back to July 2013.

See http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-cn/兩岸服務業貿易協議

Since the agreement isn't effective until it is ratified by the legislature, I don't think it is necessarily anti-democratic to not make it public when it was negotiated and signed by the executive, as long as there is enough disclosure and public debate about it before the ratification. There appears have a deep and detailed public debate about the agreement since July of last year.

Didn't you say the pro-treaty majority in the legislature quickly ratified it because the anti-treaty legislators started protesting and creating chaos in the legislature? If every time a legislative minority doesn't like a bill, they scream and yell and try to the prevent the work of the legislature, then democracy won't work. Democracy is majority rule plus the protection of basic rights, but it's not the right to get your way.

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Well, to be honest I don't know a lot about this. I'm here for 古文字學, after all. I was aware of the 服貿協議 and people's dislike of it, but haven't really been following it until the past few days.

 

I do know that the KMT pushed it through on Monday without first going through the document like they were supposed to. Protests and chaos in the Legislative Yuan are par for the course, and have been for a long time. That doesn't give the other party the right to skip due process.

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I don't know if it's allowed or not. My understanding (which could be wrong) is that the KMT agreed to review it line by line, and therefore they must do so.

 

By the way, while the DPP is supporting the movement, I don't think they're the ones leading it. It's primarily led by students and other 民眾.

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True. The DPP asked that revisions to the agreement be allowed instead of a simple up-or-down vote. Because they don't have enough votes to block the ratification of the agreement as is, they want to have a vote on it item by item. But voting by package is a common legislative procedure, particularly for treaties, because compromises are necessary within a package, if you start voting on individual pieces in the package, you may not be able to pass the package at all.

But back to the substance of the service trade agreement, I don't see anything really controversial about it. It allows mainland companies to invest in 60-odd service sectors and Taiwan companies to invest in 80-odd service sectors in mainland. But there is a strict limit on number of people mainland companies can send to Taiwan to managed their invested companies: 7 people max per company if I read the Wikipedia summary correctly. That addresses the fear of Taiwanese about influx of immigrants from the mainland.

Service sector jobs are much more local and harder to outsource than manufacturing jobs. If I were worried about losing local jobs, I would be much more worried about trade agreements involving import of goods than an agreement on services -- which is why I said that the original 2010 trade agreement was a bigger deal. Yet the voters still voted Ma and the KMT back into office in 2012.

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Like I said, I don't know enough about the STA to have much of an opinion one way or the other. But from what I've been reading and listening to today, it seems to be more about the KMT "ramming it through," and fears that if they can do that, what other kinds of agreements will they sign without due process? As an attorney said a few minutes ago in a speech outside the building, 「今天服貿只用30秒通過,明天和平協議是不是也這樣通過了,這是多麼恐怖的事情,今天我們容忍這樣的事情,我們的民主就會葬送在我們的手上了。」

 

As far as the STA itself, I think people are worried that with it will come more mainlanders in high positions, allowing the PRC to gradually gain more influence here as they have in Hong Kong. Reunification is the PRC's primary goal in its dealings with Taiwan, and I'm sure they would be thrilled to accomplish that through economic influence, with no shots fired.

 

It may be that the 2010 agreement was a bigger deal. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Does that mean they shouldn't be upset about what's going on now? I don't think so.

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Upset, yes, but there is no legal right to take over a government building. There may be moments that are illegal actions may be warranted, but I am not sure this is one of them.

The current agreement was signed in the middle of 2013. There has been a wide ranging and detailed public debate about the agreement. I don't see anything undemocratic about its ratification.

There was plenty of time for opponents of the 2010 trade agreements to mobile and try to defeat the KMT in 2012, but KMT still won. As they say, election should have consequences in a democracy. The Republicans in the US may be upset at Obama and ObamaCare, but you don't see them trying to occupy the White House, though I am sure a few would like to.

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I'm not sure that protests being illegal necessarily lessen the legitimacy of the motivation for protesting...

It's probably also important to note that attitudes of the people are not set in stone by each election, static until the next one...

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I understand their concern. They want independence for Taiwan and are afraid that the agreement will tie Taiwan and mainland's economy too close together for Taiwan to achieve independence. But the normal democratic way for them to achieve their goal is through persuading voters and winning a majority.

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So you don't believe in legislatures? Do you have a proposal for a better system?

Anyway, the ties between mainland and Taiwan are determined by their physical closeness, cultural closeness, and globalization. Even before the ban on mainland visitors and direct flights were lifted in 2008, the two economies were already getting much closer than they were 20 years ago.

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They want independence for Taiwan and are afraid that the agreement will tie Taiwan and mainland's economy too close together for Taiwan to achieve independence.

 

Close economic ties do not interfere with political independence. I would argue the opposite, that they force the two governments to talk to each other, and therefore recognise each other as separate legal entities, and therefore . . . independence. It will be hard for the Mainland to insist that Taiwan participate in APEC meetings as "Chinese Taipei" or whatever when they are signing treaties and having weekly meetings about mundane administrative stuff.

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Taiwan has de facto independence right now. But outright declaration is dangerous because the possibility of use of force by the mainland. So most people favor the status quo.

In a 2008 poll, 64% of respondents favored either "status quo forever" or "status quo now, decision later". Only 6% favored independence immediately, and only 17% favored "status quo now, independence later".

See http://www.academia.edu/1154489/Taiwan_Public_Opinion_Trends_1992-2008_Exploring_Attitudes_on_Cross-Strait_Issues

The pro-independence activists want more people to want immediate independence or at least "status quo now, independence later". They are afraid with closer relations with the mainland, the number of people who want independence enough to risk a war is going to decline. That's the reason why they want to block contact with mainland as much as possible. If those in Taiwan get too close to mainland, they'll be too satisfied with the status quo to want to fight for independence.

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There may be moments that are illegal actions may be warranted, but I am not sure this is one of them.

Even for people as tamed as us in HK, we did sometimes stage large protests to force the government to withdraw unpopular policies/ actions. I don't see anything wrong with the Taiwan people's action if so many of them feel the same way and turn up and take action together. Sometimes we can't be sure of such things, can we? Unless after 蓋棺定論. But then there is another saying that goes 公道自在人心.

I don't think the current occupation has a lot to do with "independence" as in Taiwan as a nation.

PS - I read on the newspaper today about the quote "羊一般民眾會產生出狼一般政府". According to the internet the original is "'A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.' (Edward Murrow). This seems very true.

PPS - 「不要成為下一個香港」響遍台灣

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Taiwan's democracy is flawed to begin with. It only has two parties, one of which used to be the party of the dictator and kept much of the money and assets of their time in charge. If you don't like the KMT and Ma Ying-jeou's cuddling up to China, your only option is the DPP, which is led by the old guard which myopically only has one issue on its program and won't make way to the next generation. As I understood the current movement (and a few previous ones), it consists mostly of young people with concerns that go beyond what China is doing and how the KMT is bad, namely issues that actually concern Taiwan itself. Who are they supposed to vote for? And when? Despite Ma's approval rating now being under 10%, he'll continue to be president for two more years. My country has a multi-party system and such a thing is highly unlikely to happen: other parties in the parliament would throw out a government with such low ratings.

Anyway. I haven't really followed this movement beyond seeing that everyone in Taiwan on my Facebook seems to wholeheartedly support it, but a journalist and Taiwan expert that I know is currently writing about them a lot: http://fareasternpotato.blogspot.nl/.

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