Taiwan students occupy legislature over China trade deal

Students and protesters hold banners and chairs inside Taiwan's legislature in Taipei on March 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Students and protesters hold banners and chairs inside Taiwan's legislature in Taipei on March 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - About 200 Taiwan students opposed to a trade pact with China which they fear gives the mainland too much economic influence have occupied Taiwan's legislature, media reported on Wednesday.

The protesters burst into the legislative chamber late on Tuesday and repulsed police efforts to evict them, media said.

The occupation comes after the ruling Nationalist Party said this week an initial review of the pact had been completed despite opposition party concern about the mainland's growing influence on the Taiwanese economy.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since Nationalist forces, defeated by the Communists, fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control.

But in recent years, the two sides have built up extensive economic ties, and in February they held their first direct government-to-government talks, a big step towards expanding cross-strait dialogue beyond trade.

Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has vowed to protect the island's economy from excessive Chinese influence, has said it would vote against the deal although it lacks numbers to block its passage.

Mainland China is the island's biggest trading partner and the two sides have signed a slew of agreements on everything from transport to tourism since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.

Under the latest trade pact, China will open 80 of its service sectors to Taiwanese companies, while Taiwan will allow mainland investment in 64 sectors.

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