It isn’t getting much coverage in the media outside Taiwan, but there is a huge student protest here in Taipei. I saw the news as it first happened, but really didn’t know much about it. Then I was invited to have a look on Friday night.
The protest started a few days ago, led by students and even organized by a few members of parliament. At issue is a trade pact between Taiwan and mainland China that the students claim serves no one but mainland China. The pact was supposed to undergo a close review in parliament, but President Ma Ying-jeou passed it with an executive order rather than parliamentary approval.
In an effort to overturn this trade pact, the at least 200 students occupied the Legislative Yuan, the equivalent of the US Capitol. They have effectively shut down their own government. Add to that the thousands of others protesting outside.
The protests supposedly aren’t only about the trade pact, but about the perceived lack of government transparency and democracy in Taiwan. There are also many people who don’t want closer ties to mainland China — this seems to be the difference between average citizens and businesses that would be happy to have mainland investors and tourists.
There are reports today that riot police have been breaking up the protests and may remove the protesters from the legislative chambers.