Taiwan students withdraw from legislative building

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Student protesters retreated from the chamber of Taiwan's legislative building in Taipei on Thursday evening, ending their three-week occupation of the site prompted by controversy over a cross-Strait service pact.

The withdrawal began at about 6 p.m.. Thousands of people gathered on the nearby streets to witness the last moment of the protest.

After the students exited, police and workers entered the building for repair work so that a legislative meeting could be held at the site on Friday.

Student leaders announced the retreat decision on Monday, saying the protest had met its goals, including the call for "legalizing" the scrutiny mechanism on future cross-Strait agreements. They did not mention rejection of the pact, a demand they had insisted but disagreed by the authority.

In a speech given before the departure, a student representative said they would return and expand the fight if the authority reneges on its promises.

Responding to the students' demand to pass the scrutiny law before the pact's review, Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday that the authority has agreed to formulate the law, but believed the review could be performed in the meantime.

Hundreds of students stormed into the legislative chamber on March 18 in protest of what they see as "undemocratic" tactics used by the ruling Kuomintang to speed up the ratification of the pact between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

A follow-up to the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), the service trade agreement aims to open up 80 of the mainland's service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwan sectors to the mainland.

Having initially won much public compassion, the student protest has run into more opposition in recent days. There has been mounting criticism about the "undemocratic" nature of their occupation, disruption of legislative operations, and their changing demands.

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