Early Monday morning, police moved into the Executive Yuan in Tapei to remove student protesters who had barricaded themselves inside the legislature.
That erupted into a dramatic clash between protesters and police, which resulted in 58 arrests and 137 people injured.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, the demonstrations are in response to a controversial trade agreement that would bring the country closer to China.
The paper reports these protests have been the most divisive the country has seen since President Ma Ying-jeou took office six years ago with promises to forge closer relations with China.
The paper adds:
“According to Mr. Ma’s government, the pact, which focuses on services, is an essential step to further liberalize cross-Strait trade and will provide select businesses with wider access to China’s market.
“Protesters, though, have demanded that the agreement be nullified and seized the meeting chamber of the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday. They argue that the deal will hurt small businesses and job prospects for people in Taiwan, especially the young. They say that the negotiations lacked transparency and that the deal may enable China to exert more influence over Taiwan’s economy and politics.”
The Associated Press reports that protests in Taiwan are common “but violent confrontations relatively rare.” The wire service reports on the Chinese reaction to the protests:
“China’s government has not commented on the protests, although an editorial Monday in the official newspaper Global Times was harshly critical.
“‘The Taiwanese students lack the courage and determination to commit to regional economic integration, fear losing out and change and only wish to defend the status quo,’ the editorial read, contrasting Taiwan’s hesitation with South Korea’s embrace of the Chinese economy.”