Confrontation erupts outside Legislature over China pact (update)

04/01/2014 10:36 PM
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Taipei, April 1 (CNA) Tensions were high as a crowd tried to force its way through a police cordon and into the Legislative Yuan to "hold a dialogue" with the student-led protesters who have occupied the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan since March 18.

Hundreds of flag-waving and slogan-chanting demonstrators claiming to be members of trade unions demanded that the students opposed to the trade-in-services pact with China hand back the compound to lawmakers.

Though the demonstrators' slogans included "peace" and "reason," the police presence was tripled to around 740 officers to ensure that rival crowds did not come into direct contact in order to avoid clashes.

The police were also worried that the demonstrators marching on the Legislative Yuan could contain some criminal elements as their action was led by Chang An-lo, a high-profile former gangster better known as the "White Wolf" who now heads a pro-Chinese unification political party.

Chang criticized the student protesters for their occupation and for their policy of checking IDs before allowing anyone into the main chamber of the Legislature.

He led his group in chanting, "the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is corrupt," linking protesters with the opposition party that also opposes the trade-in-services pact with China.

Anti-pact protesters replied with even louder chants of "hei dao," the Chinese word for gangster.

Tuesday's events were not the first time that alleged gangsters raised tension around the Legislature. A number of ruffians rode motorbikes into the crowds of protesters on March 19, the second day of the occupation, and brandished large knives before being chased away.

Media have speculated over a connection to Chang, who made an appearance near the Legislature the same day. He has however denied involvement in what was apparently intended to be threatening behavior.

Student-led protesters occupied the Legislature on March 18 to protest the handling of the services pact. Tuesday's counter demonstration was to show support for the agreement and put pressure on the students.

The services pact, a follow-up agreement to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, was signed last June and is now in the Legislature for review.

(By Yuris Ku, Liu Chien-pang, Chen Chih-chung, Jay Chen and Elaine Hou) ENDITEM/ls/WH

Related stories:●April 1: Supporters of trade pact with China rally at Legislature●March 31: Government will not tolerate violence against violence: spokesman●March 30: Hundreds rally to demand pact protesters go back to school

(Click here for the latest on the ongoing protest and developments since the Legislature occupation starting March 18.)

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