Taiwan’s president offers to meet student protesters after violent clashes

BY Ariel Min  March 25, 2014 at 5:49 PM EST
Riot police clash with student demonstrators Monday in Taipei, Taiwan. Protests erupted between protesters and police after Taiwan's president refused to scrap a contentious trade agreement with China. Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Riot police clash with student demonstrators Monday in Taipei, Taiwan. Protests erupted between students and police after Taiwan’s president refused to scrap a contentious trade agreement with China. Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou extended an offer to talk with student protest leaders in the midst of escalating tensions and demonstrations near the parliament building. The demonstrators said on Tuesday they are willing to accept the invitation from the president but demanded a concrete solution that would closely monitor agreements with China.

When the Taiwanese government agreed to a trade deal with China last week, hundreds of student protesters occupied the Taiwanese parliament building and other government buildings in Taipei. The demonstrators oppose ratification of the deal that would allow the two sides to invest more freely in each other’s services markets, the BBC reports.

Tensions rose this past weekend when demonstrators expanded their protest by invading the building that houses the prime minister’s office. Police used water cannons and other means of force to clear the parliament building. According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, at least 137 people, including protesters, police and journalists, have been hospitalized since the rallies began last week.

The trade deal at issue would open 80 of China’s service sectors to Taiwan, and 64 Taiwanese sectors to China. The Taiwanese government argued that the deal would open up better opportunities for Taiwan to trade with other countries and is important for economic competitiveness. The protesters are worried that it would ultimately hurt local businesses and allow China to expand its influence over their independent and democratic territory.