The Taiwan student protest inspired over 100,000 thousand Taiwanese protesters to take to the streets of the capital Taipei on Sunday, rallying against the trade deal with China that was hastily pushed through Parliament 2 weeks ago. Police estimated the numbers to be above 115,000 people, while The Associated Press (AP) estimated around 200,000 people.
The China trade deal would allow Chinese and Taiwanese freedom to set up businesses in each other’s territory. The protesters, led by Taiwan students’ Sunflower Movement got fired up two weeks ago when Taiwan’s ruling party pushed the trade bill through the parliamentary review process without bipartisan discussion, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
People from all levels of society joined in, from mothers with toddlers to professionals, blue collar workers, grandpas, and of course, the student activists. Characteristic of Taiwanese events, they were all uniformly sporting the same colors—this time black and yellow—with many holding sunflowers as a symbol of hope.
“We must safeguard our island’s interests,” said Chin Mei Ching, a 29-year-old mother who was pushing her 1-year-old daughter in a buggy, in a Reuters report. “We have to guard against China using the economy to control us.”
President Ma asked to step down
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has consistently made ties between China and Taiwan closer and stronger since he took power, as he insists that increased trade with China is essential to maintain Taiwan’s economic competitiveness. However, many Taiwanese greatly distrust China’s intentions for their nation.
Taiwan split from China 60 years ago, when the Communist Party took over China. Taiwan has staunchly remained independent, while China still considers it part of its territory.
Taiwan students fight back
Not being ones to sit back, Taiwanese students stormed Parliament on March 18, and ended up blockading the doors shut with furniture. They had asked President Ma to retract the trade agreement, and have it go through correct legal processes and be rewritten, and they also asked for an apology. But they were met with silence.
The protesters, at first mostly college students, say the trade deal with China could harm Taiwan’s economy, democratic system, and national security, according to CNN.
“The trade agreement was not supervised by the people of Taiwan, and benefits only big companies, and harnesses our jobs,” wrote iReporter George Chang to CNN.
However, Ma has said the protests will not impact the “potential for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping,” according to a Reuters report. Both leaders have expressed interest in a ground-breaking meeting, though no details have been solidified.