Taiwan protesters in face-off over trade pact

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Nearly 1,000 Taiwanese people joined a demonstration in Taipei on Tuesday afternoon in support a cross-Strait trade pact, urging students to quit Taiwan's legislative building.

"We want the pact! We want jobs!" shouted the protesters toward the students across a heavy police cordon. Occasional scuffles broke out between the two rival groups and police.

Led by a labor group, the crowd had planned to march into the legislative building and persuade the students to leave, accusing them of disrupting democracy.

A protester said the students do not represent the majority of Taiwan and have kidnapped policy-making by illegally taking over the legislative chamber.

Chang An-lo, president of Taiwan's Unionist Party, gave a speech calling the occupation of the legislature "dangerous".

The demonstration ended at about 5 p.m., but Chang warned of a return if police do not disperse the students.

Hundreds of students stormed into the legislative chamber on March 18 in protest at what they see as undemocratic tactics used by the ruling Kuomintang to ratify the pact between China's mainland and Taiwan.

Student protest leaders have issued demands including rejecting the pact, passing a law to monitor future cross-Strait agreements and convening a "citizens' constitutional meeting."

Having failed to reach an agreement with the authority, protest leaders called for more people to join a sit-in on Sunday. At least 100,000 people answered the call.

The student protest, however, has encountered more opposition in recent days. Thousands of people rallied in Taipei on Saturday to call for social stability and resumption of legislative operations.

Taiwan's leader Ma Ying-jeou on Tuesday said the authority had done all they could do regarding the students' demands. He called it unnecessary to enact the supervision law before the review of the pact and refused to withdraw it. He had earlier agreed to a detailed review of the pact and a scrutiny mechanism.

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