Taipei, March 24 (CNA) Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Monday that the student-led protests against a trade pact with China had "degenerated and gone out of control," forcing the government to take anti-riot measures in the early hours of Monday morning.
Hundreds of protesters stormed the Executive Yuan's main building at around 7:30 p.m. Sunday night. Many of them had been taking part in the occupation of the Legislative Yuan, some 200 meters away, that began March 18.
"We cannot allow the country's top decision-making body to be usurped or occupied, and we had to exercise our official authority," Jiang said at an international press conference.
The protesters broke into the Executive Yuan compound, and some of them stormed the main building, he said, asserting that "we needed to take control of the situation immediately."
The decision to send more police to the Executive Yuan and later disperse the protesters was to ensure that the executive branch of government would be able to operate normally, he explained.
The premier also described as a "gross distortion" media portrayals of the overnight crackdown as being similar to the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in China.
Dismissing the connection, Jiang said the protesters broke into the government's executive body rather than demonstrating on the street.
Serious clashes occurred early Monday before police managed to remove protesters from inside the Executive Yuan compound just before dawn using high-pressure water cannons.
More than 2,000 protesters were dispersed from the Executive Yuan and its surrounding areas, Jiang said.
Jiang also urged the protesters to remain calm and rational, and to not use the trade pact with China as an excuse to paralyze government operations.
A total of 61 people were arrested for occupying the Executive Yuan building, damaging public property and trying to break into the premier's office, with 35 still being questioned as of 10 a.m., Jiang said.
A total of 110 people -- mostly students and police officers -- were injured during the scuffles and sent to nearby hospitals, Jiang said, citing the latest information provided by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Sunday's move into the Executive Yuan was said to be initiated by several activists who are part of the "Occupy Taiwan Legislature" movement, in which student-led protesters occupied the main chamber of the Legislature on March 18 and remain camped out there.
(By James Lee and Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/ls
Related stories:March 24:●Protesters to seek charges against premier for police crackdown●Executive Yuan protesters dispersed with water cannons
March 23:●President backs premier order to evict intruders from Executive Yuan●Protesters enter Executive Yuan, extending occupation movement frontline
(Click here for the latest on the ongoing protest and developments since the Legislature occupation starting March 18.)