- Posted March 25, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Protesters occupy Taiwan legislature
At The Hands of President Ma
The 23rd Of March was a Sunday, bathed in dreary sunshine, so normal, so unsuspecting of the events that had yet to unfold.
It was the sixth day of the ongoing student protests, dubbed the Sunflower Movement, that occupied the Taiwanese Legislature – speeches were given, slogans were chanted, volunteers bustled about handing out the ever incoming stream of resources, water, bread rolls, and blankets. Yet people were growing restless. Conflict broke out, students demanded for the police to be removed, demanded to be let in the blockaded Legislature. Microphones were tugged about, screams echoed across the busy streets.
Student Leaders Lin and Chen screamed themselves hoarse for order, while the 30,000 supporters reclining on the hard concrete outside the walls exchanged anxious looks, shook their heads.
“We all want the same thing! We’re all friends!” They yelled into the microphone. “Do not forget who our real enemy is!”
And indeed they did not.
That very evening, a break-away group of students decided to cross Zhong-Hsiao East Road, heading towards the Executive-Yuan. Walls were climbed, people followed, racing to keep up. At dusk, the square outside the building was crawling with students and protestors, sitting, standing, taking pictures, urging people to join in.
Around 9:30, a line of heavily staffed police in complete riot gear appeared. What then followed can only be described as a needlessly violent, brutal eviction that continued on through the night into the early hours of the following Monday morning.
Pictures of bloodshed appeared, videos of students screaming into the night, reports of medical staff rushing around, hindered by the heavy police forces. Water throwers were used.
The government issued a statement the following morning, in which Prime Minister Jiang Yi-Huah stated that the police “merely tapped people on their shoulders and carried them out one by one.” (Newtalk, 24. 3. 2014). He also went on to say that the occupation of the Executive Yuan was “unlawful, out of control”, and that the student protesters were clearly “no longer a peaceful movement, but one based on violence and rioting.” (Liberty Times, 25. 3. 2014).
Why the radicalism? Why cross the street and attempt further occupation? Why take the risk and climb barbed walls? In an earnest attempt to understand, there is only one answer: the blatant disregard, the overt arrogance and at the root of all, the unlawfulness of Taiwan’s government, in particular President Ma.
The Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services has been an issue of conflict from the very beginning. On the 17th of March, the day before the occupation of the Legislature, chaos ruled its walls. The opposition parties, facing the threat of absolute majority of the governing party Kuomintang, blockaded the podium, trying to prevent the agreement from passing immediately, requesting a line-by-line reviewing of all the contents.
In the whirl of confusion, Kuomintang Legislator Chang Ching-Zhong passed the Agreement on to the next stage without further deliberation, declaring it had now been lawfully inspected. (Apple Daily, 24. 3. 2014). This was a clear breach of the due process, and it has been said that it could also be a constitutional violation. (Ibid.)
President Ma defended Legislator Chang, saying that he acted under duress, and repeatedly addressed the importance of passing the agreement. (FTV, via Yahoo News, 23. 3. 2014).
From these actions it becomes patently clear that President Ma will stop at nothing to pass the Cross-Strait Agreement. Had the student movement not occupied the Legislature the following day, surely it would have been passed with an utter lack of transparency, with the people all non-the-wiser.
Protestors oppose the contents of the Trade Agreement itself, but most of all it was the brute force with which the ruling party pushed its will, the constant secrecy and evasion, that spiked the anger.
Both the occupation of the Legislature and the attempt to occupy the Executive Yuan were outcries in response to President Ma’s unlawful actions, for there is no other way that he will be stopped. The government laments that they represent the majority of Taiwan’s people, that the few thousand extremists gathered do not speak for anyone but their own dwindling number of supporters. They accuse the students of brutality and vandalism, yet brush off pictures of demonstrators battered and bruised by their own hand.
But the truth rings clear: The government is but trying to conceal their true goals and improper means to attain them. The student’s request for transparency clashed with their own interest, perhaps even with their obligation towards the Chinese Communist Party. Thus they had to be silenced, intimidated, discouraged.
The 23rd of March was a day of uprising, of discontent. And it shall continue on, as both sides will stand their ground, for however long. Resources kept flowing in, a young man lay upon the sidewalk in deep slumber. Spirits were subdued, applause reluctant. Inside the Legislature, watching the images of bloodshed, student leader Chen broke out into tears: “How is this possible? Why do they commiserate with the ones in power?” (FTVCP, YouTube, 24. 3. 2014).
On Monday the 24th, within the diminished number of protestors, sat a pair of girls bearing flowers. They explained that they wanted to lay them down in front of the Executive Yuan, to commemorate the day democracy died at the hands of President Ma.