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Government changes course on Sunflower Movement protesters

2016/05/23 14:32:01

Portesters break into the Executive Yuan building. (CNA photo March 23, 2014)

Taipei, May 23 (CNA) Premier Lin Chuan (林全) has decided to withdraw criminal charges filed by the previous Cabinet in 2014 against 126 protesters who broke into its headquarters in Taipei in March that year during the student-led Sunflower Movement against a controversial Taiwan-China trade pact.

Cabinet spokesman Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) made the announcement in a press conference Monday, saying Lin issued the order right after he was sworn in on May 20.

The premier has explained that the movement was a "political event" rather than a simple legal case, and that the intrusion should be handled "in the principle of more harmony and less conflict," Tung said.

Tung further said that the premier thinks the Cabinet's move to press criminal charges against the student protesters back then was a political reaction.

Now that the idea of the Sunflower Movement has become a "common consensus of society" and the Legislature has already moved to introduce a monitoring law on cross-Taiwan Strait agreements, in answer to the protesters' demands, the results reflect the movement's social contribution, Tung quoted Lin as saying.

He also told the press that the decision to withdraw the charges was the second official document Lin had signed since assuming office.

It marks the first political decision made by the new Cabinet, Tung said, noting that Lin had full discussions with President Tasi Ing-wen (蔡英文) on the issue before making his move.

The Sunflower Movement began after Kuomintang lawmaker Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) fast-tracked the trade-in-service agreement with China through a committee review on March 17, 2014.

The agreement had been stuck in the Legislature since it was signed in mid-2013, due to opposition and views that it might hurt job opportunities in Taiwan if the island opens up its service sector to Chinese investment.

The 126 protesters were charged with breaking into the Cabinet headquarters during the period from midnight of March 23 to the next day's wee hours in violation of the Criminal Code, which forbids entry into another person's property without a legitimate cause.

The protesters who scaled the walls of the Executive Yuan compound and overwhelmed police presence also broke some office furniture but the Cabinet under then-Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) did not ask for any damages.

The break-in occurred at a time when several hundred protesters had already occupied the Legislative Yuan for several days. The occupation lasted for 23 days after then-Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng promised not to convene inter-party negotiations on the controversial cross-strait pact before the legislation of a proposed cross-strait agreement-monitoring agreement.

(By Tai Ya-chen and Elizabeth Hsu)
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Related:
●March 24, 2014: 'Out of control' protests prompt action: premier
●March 24, 2014: Executive Yuan protesters dispersed with water cannons
●March 23, 2014: Protesting students break into Executive Yuan