Taiwan protest draws more than 100,000 against China trade deal
More than 100,000 Taiwanese marched in Taipei today to protest a trade deal with China, challenging President Ma Ying-jeou's plan to improve economic relations between the political rivals.
As many as 350,000 people joined the rally, "more than we expected," said Chen Wei-ting, a leader of students against the pact. The National Police Agency estimated there were 116,000 demonstrators as of 4 p.m. Protesters gathered outside the presidential office a day after Ma rejected demands to withdraw an agreement to open Taiwan's service industries to competitors from China.
"China doesn't respect what Taiwan wants, and this trade deal will help it get more control over us," said Justin Hsu, 27, a factory worker who traveled from Kaohsiung in western Taiwan to join the march. Thousands of protesters clashed with riot police last week after storming the cabinet compound for the first time in Taiwan's history. The stalemate, entering its second week, may stall the island's growth, economists at Bank of America said. The protests reflect growing skepticism over greater economic integration with China, which has become Taiwan's largest trade partner even as the two sides remain without a peace treaty or a truce after a civil war six decades ago.
"The protest is a chance for the students to show they have widespread support for their view that the trade pact and the way Ma's government functions is not in Taiwan's best interests," said Bruce Jacobs, author of "Democratizing Taiwan" and Emeritus Professor of Asian Languages and Studies at Monash University in Melbourne. "There's a valid concern in Taiwan about the military and political threat China poses." China and Taiwan have been governed separately since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to the island during a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists for control of China.