President urges protesters to end occupation of Legislature
Taipei, March 23 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday urged student-led protesters to end their occupation of the Legislature so legislative operations can return to normal, while calling for an early legislative review of the services trade pact with China.
During an international news conference at the Presidential Office, Ma urged the protesters -- who have been occupying the chamber of the Legislature since March 18 -- to leave soon. This was the first time the president spoke publicly about the "Occupy Taiwan Legislature Movement."
Stressing that the services trade pact is crucial to Taiwan's future economic development, Ma said he hoped lawmakers across party lines will soon reach a consensus on reviewing the agreement on a clause-by-clause basis.
Ma, who is also chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), expressed his hope that the legislative procedure of reviewing the cross-strait trade agreement will be completed soon. The KMT and the opposition parties have agreed to review the pact clause-by-clause, he added.
The remaining issue is that the KMT insists that the review proceeds during floor sessions, while the opposition Democratic Progressive Party plans another joint session of eight legislative committees on Monday to review the pact. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng is seeking a consensus on the matter among the parties.
In a chaotic joint committee session on March 17, KMT lawmaker Chang Ching-chung, who is co-convener of the Legislature's Internal Administration Committee and the presiding chair of that meeting, grabbed a microphone and announced the beginning of the session.
Soon afterward, he declared that the pact -- which he termed "an executive order" -- had passed the review and would be sent to the legislative floor for consideration. Chang then called for the meeting to be adjourned, catching opposition lawmakers by surprise.
Chang's move was followed by a rally that turned into the storming of the Legislature and the occupation of its main legislative chamber last week. Outside the legislative complex, thousands of protesters have also staged a peaceful sit-in to support those who have locked themselves inside.
The protesters broke into the Legislature because they were dissatisfied with the legislative procedure, Ma said, describing their acts as "illegal."
They have paralyzed legislative operations for five days, which has seriously affected the operations of the executive and legislative branches, he said.
"Is this the democracy we want?" Ma asked.
In response to a question about whether he will talk to the student protesters face-to-face as they demand, Ma said he was afraid it would be a bit "meaningless," citing the encounter one day earlier when Premier Jiang Yi-huah went to talk to the protesters.
The protesters have set their own premise and asked the premier to accept before the communication, Ma said.
The premier's attempts to expand on the matter of the trade pact with China were cut short by the protesters outside of the Legislature, who shouted, "Return the service trade pact."
(By Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/ROBERT
(President Ma Ying-jeou's statement during the news conference Sunday, in Chinese)
Related stories:●March 23: No Beijing pressure on services pact: President Ma●March 23: Protesters say president 'insincere' in responses to their calls●March 23: President Ma defends services pact with China (update-1)●March 22: Premier rejects protesters' demand for withdraw of pact with China (update)
(For the latest on the Legislature occupation, click here.)
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