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01.04.2014Three Scenarios That End Occupation Of Taiwan Parliament

Hundreds of university students are living at Taiwan?s parliament to block ratification of a trade agreement with China.


Ralph Jennings, Forbes.com

Hundreds of university students are living at Taiwan’s parliament to block ratification of a trade agreement with China. The occupation has spiraled into mass protests at government offices and threatened Taiwan’s reputation as a trading partner along with the ruling party’s odds of holding power past the president’s term limit in 2016.

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Protest leaders get more entrenched every time an official speaks up without meeting their demands. They say the trade deal must be scrapped because it lacks transparency. President Ma Ying-jeou says the trade pact will stay. “The government has replied, so legitimacy is weakening for the students in parliament,” says Kweibo Huang, a professor at National Chengchi University. How then will the occupation end?

Here are three scenarios:

Police force everyone out

Members of Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party, which has a majority in parliament, are talking to their main opposition on how to ratify the trade pact. MPs are open to an item-by-item review, the cancellation of which incited a break-in that got the occupation started. That review could strike clauses hurtful to Taiwanese businesses, sending the agreement back to negotiators from Taipei and Beijing for another round of talks. The pact as signed in June would open 80 service sector categories in China and just 64 here – part of Beijing’s image management offensive aimed at political reunification with Taiwan someday.

A vote on the trade agreement would need a podium clear of protesters. Groups who back the trade agreement despite fears of getting too cozy with old enemy China have threatened a showdown today with students in parliament. Taiwan’s president told a visiting US scholar Monday that the occupation is illegal and uncool in a democratic society.

These pressures would prompt legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng to issue a get-out deadline and call police on protesters who defy the order to be martyrs (pronounced “media celebs”) for a cause. Batons would bring blood, but hospitals are ready after the violent ouster March 23 of protesters from the cabinet headquarters.

Still, legislators worry about their images as elections are never far off. The parliament speaker has told students so far to take care of themselves, not to start packing up the banana peels and lunch boxes. “I don’t think Wang Jin-pyng will use police,” says Huang, who’s close to local politics. “He has his own way of thinking.” Odds: moderate

Students leave by attrition

Whether it’s the crush of midterm exams this month, fatigue from sleeping on cardboard mats or frustration for lack of protest results, the students anchoring today’s occupation may find things more rewarding outside parliament. About 700 protesters are there at any one time, some at the podium and others in doorways. That’s down from thousands in the occupation’s first week and more than 100,000 street demonstrators for the same cause on Sunday.

Maybe we get a dip during mid-month exams. But a zero headcount is unlikely. People fresh out of the exam room can replace those headed in. It takes just a few dozen to command parliament’s podium. Odds: low

Students relocate protest after deal with legislators

Protest leaders suddenly announce that (perhaps after exam season) they will move outside parliament to a venue that’s high profile but doesn’t obstruct government business. Unrelated protest groups already have long-term camps outside parliament. The students could set up another, though it wouldn’t equal the plush, weather-proof legislative assembly hall where some have even hired a massage service.

The relocation could follow a backroom deal between student protesters and legislators keen to shake off criticism from pro-trade pact people and law-and-order elements of the Nationalist Party leadership. Their handshake would save face for the students as they carry on the protest and for the legislators, who could get on with their agenda without being blamed for police clashes. Odds: moderate to high


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