President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday addressed for the first time the protests at Taiwan's legislature. Sources say that the crowds swelled to more than 20,000 people in and around the legislature on Saturday. At the heart of the protest is a trade in services agreement which Taiwan signed with China, pending the approval of the legislature.
A crowd made up largely of student protestors stormed the legislature on Tuesday night after the ruling party – the Kuomintang (KMT) – attempted to forgo legislative review in committee. The protestors have voiced their opposition at the attempt to force the passage of the legislation, which they say will give China greater control over Taiwan. They also oppose what they are calling "black box" legislation, or the creation of an agreement behind closed doors. The movement has been given the nickname "Sunflower Movement", a symbol of their call for more light to be shed on the issue.
At an international press conference on Sunday, President Ma spoke about the government's perspective on the trade in services agreement and about the protests.
The president said that he understands why people are concerned about the pact, and affirmed the student's passion and their motivation. He said that when he was in school, he also participated in student movements.
But as to the students' request for a dialogue with the president, he said that it would be meaningless if he agreed to the preconditions they have placed on such dialogue.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah on Saturday became the first government official to meet with the protestors. The meeting lasted for ten minutes, and concluded with the premier being asked to leave. It was during that meeting, that the students requested a meeting with the president and laid down their preconditions.
The president said that the trade agreement was still in the process of being discussed by the legislature. He said that if anyone has questions, there is still room for discussion. However, he said, the students dissatisfaction with the legislative process and subsequent occupation of the legislature, had stalled the operations of the legislature and other branches of government. Therefore, he said, it was imperative that the protests come to an end.