Hundreds of students remained barricaded in Taiwan’s Legislature early Wednesday in protest of the ruling party’s push for a trade pact with China, which demonstrators claim will hurt the island. The protesters, mostly university students, entered the main assembly hall inside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Tuesday night and blocked the entrances with chairs, according to images and accounts filed from the scene. Police responded but had not dispersed the protesters, who also filled the streets around the Legislature in the center of Taipei.
The students said they plan to occupy the Legislature until Friday’s session, when the pact was to be deliberated. Taiwan’s state news agency reported that 38 police officers were injured when more than 400 protesters took over the Legislature. Four protesters were arrested in two unsuccessful attempts to evict them, the news agency reported. Police said there were more than 2,000 protesters both inside and outside the building, with a equal number of officers on the scene. “We do not want to clash with the police,” said protester and iReporter Shanny Chang, 19. “We just have to let the government know that never try to fool the people.”
One Reporter said that after the protesters took over, hundreds gathered outside the building, with some making speeches and singing songs. In a video, a young woman sings Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They are a-Changin’,” which many associate with the protest spirit of the 1960s. “She played the Dylan song because she thinks the lyrics match the ongoing events happening in Taiwan,” said iReporter George Chang, 24, who shot the video. “Bob Dylan isn’t really that popular in Taiwan, especially not to the 8th grade generation, what Taiwanese call children born after 1991, but to the older generations I think he isn’t a stranger to them.” The trade pact was signed last year in Shanghai to ease investment and trade between the two longtime adversaries, mainland China and Taiwan.
But opponents have voiced concerns that not only will Taiwan’s economy be hurt as businesses and investments flow to China, but the island’s democratic system could be undermined by closer ties with the mainland. “The trade agreement was not supervised by the people of Taiwan, and benefits only big companies and harnesses our jobs,” Chang wrote. “But I do agree we need to open Taiwan to the world, even China too. But NOT this way, not by signing an agreement that is not fair to us and was negotiated by people who have no profession in these territories. We must rewrite the agreement and make it work for the both of us, towards a peaceful future between the strait of Taiwan.”