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.

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