A day of protest and action in opposition to a landmark trade deal with China will take place from all corner of Taipei City today, as more than 100,000 protesters — as well as former president Lee Teng-hui — are expected to assemble and demand the government first hold a public referendum on the issue.
Angry demonstrators scolded Taiwan’s pro-China President Ma Ying-jeou, whom they pledged to vote out of office if he sticks by the deal, set to be signed on Tuesday.
But Lo Chih-chiang, presidential spokesman, ignored and laughed at the protest, saying the strongest linkage ever between the political foes of 60 years did not mean Taiwan was selling out to China.
“They don’t dare to oppose ECFA,” Lo said, he is referring to the economic cooperation framework contract with China. “Their opposition is to a one-China market… A one-China market would be like a European Union, but we don’t have that with China.”
The demonstration was coordinated by the anti-China opposition Democratic Progressive Party. According to the analysis, leaders of the party are hoping to position the ECFA as a primary issue in November 27 local elections seen as a bellwether for the 2012 presidential election.
“Ma Ying-jeou won’t listen, but he’ll lose in the elections,” said demonstrator Chen Chih-wu, a self-employed merchant, while barraging in the crowded streets. “I came out to remind him how arrogant he is.”
The said agreement has been described as Beijing’s strategy to attract Taiwan as an fiscal benefactor, part of its long-term goal of reunifying or reclaiming with the island over which it claims control.
The potency of the trade agreement, which includes on about 800 items, would freeze Taiwan’s $390 billion export-led economy. Taiwan’s government is discouraging the deal; they fear that Taipei might lose out to rivals in the thriving Chinese market.
However, according to some protesters the ECFA will hurt small-medium scale businesses through allowing cheaper Chinese and substandard products goods, and placing the Republic of China a step closer to a reunifying politically with democratic Taiwan.
A 78-years old activists and Taipei retiree Lu Chun-tsun said, “Ma Ying-jeou is depending too much on mainland China for everything, but Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China,” and he followed, “If this were Japan he would have stepped down by now.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cited 100,000 people participated in the convergence, but police said, the protest included 32,000 people, with the numbers falling as thunderstorms and heavy rainfall cracked the sky.
On the other hand, during the press conference held by the committee, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao said the nominees should also pledge not to allow produce from DPP-governed cities and counties to be exported to China or the DPP’s opposition to the ECFA would be nothing but manipulation of a “pseudo-issue.”
KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng said that the justification behind the DPP’s rally was not clear to him, even though there are 100,000 people joined the rally, the voice of these people cannot overwhelm the “mainstream opinion” of the republic’s 23 million population.