Protesters and their supporters are using the hashtag #CongressOccupied on Twitter and Facebook to spread the message about their occupation of Taiwan's legislature in response to the ruling party's autocratic move to pass a controversial trade agreement with China without a promised clause-by-clause review.
The Cross-Strait Service Agreement, a bilateral trade agreement between Taiwan and China, was pushed through an administrative committee by presiding chairman Chang Ching-Chung and sent to the Legislative Yuan's plenary session, despite an earlier commitment to hold a thorough public review of the document. Some fear the unrestricted entry of mainland capital poses a threat to Taiwanese culture, freedom of expression and even national security and so are wary of the trade agreement.
The protest at the podium of the legislature is being broadcast live on Ustream. The live-cast is mirrored in Japan.
In the evening of March 19, the Democratic Front, one of the key organizers of the occupation action, held a press conference to make public their demands [zh]:
1. The police should leave the legislature, President Ma [Ying-jeou] should apologize, and Premier Chiang should resign.
2. What legislator Chang Ching-Chung did in the legislature on March 17 is illegal, and the decision that he claimed to make is not valid. The Legislation Yuan should reject the Service Trade Agreement.
3. The Legislation Yuan should proceed with regulations for signing the Cross-Strait Agreement as soon as possible, and the government should stop Cross-Strait negotiation and visits until this regulation is completed.
In addition to the request that the administration review the trade agreement, a coalition of youth and civic groups claimed in a press conference [zh] on March 20 that they will expand the scale of the protest if President Ma Ying-jeou and his government do not respond before noon on March 21.
Healthcare workers joined the protest to give medical assistance to both the protesters and police officers, and they used Facebook to recruit more volunteers. Wei Liulin explained their action:
We will try our best to protect the citizens and police. We ask that the police not take any violent action and do not use any kind of weapons to attack these non-violent protesters.
We already made a decision that if the police use any violent measures against protesters, we will stand in front of the injured protesters because we are healthcare workers and we will protect the patients we are taking care of.
Örkesh Dölet, known for his leading role in the Tiananmen protests of 1989 who now resides in Taiwan, entered the Legislation Yuan and encouraged protesters in the early morning on March 20:
Standing out at this critical moment is honorable action. This is how I find hope in Taiwan because the citizens think they should stand up and express their responsibility. Twenty-five years have passed since I was a student in 1989. Students’ determination to care for the fate of their countries never dies out, as I can see in Taiwan, as I can see in China. This is our hope for a democratic society.
Another important leader of the Tiananmen protests of 1989 who also resides in Taiwan, Wang Dan, went to the Legislation Yuan with Örkesh Dölet to show his support:
The reporters asked me how this student demonstration is compared to the Tiananmen protest in 1989. Of course there are a lot of differences, but there are also a lot of things that they have in common: students, ideals, passion, giving and love. […] When I look at these tireless students here, I feel that Taiwan is blessed because of these students.
Taiwanese students studying abroad also have provided what they can for the protest via Facebook pages. For example, Students abroad support for the protests against the Service Trade Agreement and Save Taiwan! Fight for democracy! Taiwanese students in UK against the black-box trade agreement are rallying support for the cause.
Hundreds of Taiwanese in Japan, Germany and elsewhere have signed a petition on a Facebook page for students abroad:
The students abroad shall not be left out of the March Student Demonstration […] There are Taiwanese all over the world around the clock to accompany the Taiwanese fighting in the Legislation Yuan.
Please sign this petition for support THANK YOU
===Oppose Trade Agreement Between Taiwan and China===
We at The Stinky Tofu support the students and protesters for a better Taiwan! A Taiwan for all Taiwanese! Enough of selling out our identity as a people and country!
Hi Jamie, thanks for your question so I can clarify what the protesters meant in their statement. Based on my research, they referred to a census completed by the Democratic Progressive Party (http://www.coolloud.org.tw/node/77794), 70.5% of the subjects chose to restart the negotiation of the Service Trade Agreement with China, and 73.8% of the subjects who classified themselves as ‘neutral voters’ (meaning they are not a supporter of any certain political party) chose to restart the negotiation. At another extreme, the Executive Yuan’s census showed that 60% of the subjects chose to pass this agreement as soon as possible (also mentioned in the previous link). In the middle of the two extremes, the Mainland Affairs Council’s census shows that 45.7% of the subjects chose to support this agreement (http://www.cna.com.tw/news/aipl/201312270163-1.aspx). The previous links listed above are supposed to be reliable media sources in Taiwan (so I am sorry that they are written in traditional Chinese).