We hope no news is good news in Taiwan. Last Monday, riot police had to use water cannons to force out hundreds of demonstrators who had stormed the government’s main headquarters, the Executive Yuan and seat of the cabinet. Premier Jiang Yi-huah got slightly hurt when the demonstrators stormed the government’s HQ.
That act of the demonstrators was the peak of their protest action against a business and services trade agreement that Taiwan (which is formally still the ROC or the Republic of China) had signed with the People’s Republic. The anti-Beijing trade-pact and the plainly anti-Beijing demonstrators had been occupying the Legislative Yuan (the Taiwan parliament) for almost a week when they decided to be bolder and entered Premier Jiang’s building.
That was a sad development. For Premier Jiang had been the coolest among the Taiwan officials in dealing with the demonstrators many of whom are university students.
Not wishing the students to be harmed, Premier Jiang had given the National Police Agency instructions to be patient and deal with the demonstrators peacefully. This was a wise order, for harsh police treatment would only incense the demonstrators who had camped in the parliament building.
While concerned about the demonstrators welfare, the Premier spoke resolutely about the correctness of the governments decision to have the cross-straits agreement with the Mainland ratified and then carried out. The trade deal was, he stressed, very important for the interests of the people of Taiwan. It would ensure a bright future for Taiwan economically and developmentally. That is very true, considering that the Western Powers’ economies are recovering rather slowly.
He said, in a meeting with the student protesters on Saturday, that opposing any kind of cooperation with China just for the sake of opposition politics would only hurt Taiwan’s competitiveness in the global economy.
The services trade agreement Taiwan and China signed last year will help create some 12,000 job opportunities, which could strengthen Taiwan’s economy. He rejected the demonstrators’ demand that the agreement be scrapped. He defended the government from not having been open and transparent about the trade deal with China. He said 16 public hearings have been held in Taiwan about it. He explained how the agreement would widen commerce between the island the mainland, which would mean assured prosperity for Taiwan and its people. And he proudly told the demonstrators that the deal includes 80 specific commitments of China to Taiwan while Taiwan only made 64 commitments.
Premier Jiang pointed out that the agreement would bring more benefits to Taiwan and none of the feared harm that would befall Taiwanese.
Deaf ears and PRC’s unpopularity
Unfortunately, the Premier’s explanations have been falling on deaf ears.
The protests are student-led and independent. There are NGOs, like the Democratic Front Against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, that give aid to the students. The student leaders apparently really don’t want to be tainted with being associated with the political opposition to President Ma Ying-jeou’s and Premier Jiang’s ruling Kuomintang Party.
The students’ success and popularity derives from the general Taiwan public’s feeling that the Communist-Party government of the Mainland cannot be trusted. They worry that closer relations with China, even if economically beneficial to the people of Taiwan, will eventually mean Taiwan’s becoming subservient to Beijing.
This benefits the political opposition, specially the Democratic Progressive Party. It opposes the bill to ratify the agreement because it really wishes not to have anything much to do with the Mainland. In fact, what it used to fight for was for Taiwan to become an independent country, a second China recognized as such by the world.