Protesters occupying Taiwan's legislature rejected a proposal put forward by President Ma Ying-jeou and his cabinet on April 3 that would “monitor” future trade agreements with China.
Members of the #CongressOccupied movement called the plan “empty, insincere and deceptive” as it gives neither room for citizen participation nor power to the Legislative Yuan to participate in the negotiation process or amend the agreement – in other words, negotiations on such agreements will remain in a “black box”. Protesters had listed a monitoring mechanism in their demands.
Opposition to the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement, which opens up Taiwan to more business with China, continues to rock the island since protesters first took over the legislature on March 18, 2014. Half a million Taiwanese people rallied against the trade deal on March 30.
April Chuang, a popular politics blogger, was very disappointed by the government, known as the Executive Yuan, and called their draft [zh] “Regulation for NOT-monitoring cross-strait agreements.”
I can bet that the final version of this regulation would at most include the involvement of the Legislative Yuan to some degree, but it would still be a regulation with no monitoring mechanism.
The fact that President Ma refused to give power to the legislature to review the agreement has raised doubts among many whether he has given in to mainland China's “one country” principle. According to a widely held belief in Taiwanese political circles, China does not allow Taiwan's legislature to make any changes to cross-strait agreements because they do not recognize Taiwan as a country that has its own legislature.
Netizens were furious on PTT [zh], Taiwan's largest bulletin board system. Some considered that the legislature's lack of power to monitor trade negotiations will hurt both the constitution and the sovereignty of Taiwan. For example, satyrs05 wrote:
If this agreement does not sell Taiwan, what kind of agreement will sell Taiwan?
Reporter Lee Chih-Te pointed out on Facebook [zh] that President Ma refused to admit that Taiwan is a country in his press conference:
When asked about whether we can reject the current agreement and start negotiations anew, President Ma's standard answer is, “This action will hurt our credibility and make other people have doubts about us when they negotiate with us in the future.” […] In the press conference on Saturday, I remember there were three reporters including me who asked President Ma why we cannot restart the negotiation process. President Ma either intentionally did not understand our question or just recited his standard answer. The Ma administration never understands that we are giving them chances to make it clear that Taiwan can reserve the right to restart the agreement. If they are unable to do so, I can put the sentence in words, “There are examples of other countries restarting negotiations, for example…, but this will hurt the cross-strait relationship seriously, so we do not consider the option of restarting negotiations.”
President Ma, I beg you. No matter if you want to restart negotiations or not, I beg you to change your answer. Do not become a powerless emperor controlled by Beijing. This is my nightmare. I believe it is yours as well.