About 32,000 people joined the rally since the protest began on the streets of Taipei at 3 p.m. local time, Wu Ching- tien, deputy chief of Taipei’s Zhongzheng First Police District said by phone today. Crowds were peacefully dismissed by 7 p.m., Wu said. The opposition had aimed to gather 100,000 people.
32,000? I was curious to see what lowball figure the police would come up with.
The government mobilized Cabinet members to promote the planned Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China Sunday despite a massive protest rallying tens of thousands the previous day.
Taiwan and China are scheduled to sign the agreement in Chongqing on Tuesday, though marches and rallies in Taipei Saturday emphasized the demand for a referendum on the issue.
An estimated 150,000 people braved pouring rain to voice their opposition, said Tsai Chi-chang, a spokesman for the Democratic Progressive Party, which organized the protest.
Known as the economic cooperation framework agreement, the pact is to be signed Tuesday in the Chinese city of Chongqing. The deal will immediately reduce or eliminate tariffs on about 800 types of exports — more than 500 of which are from Taiwan, and only about 250 from China.
The deal will also allow both sides greater access to each other's markets. Taiwan's banks, for instance, will be able to set up branches in China and do yuan business. China also agreed to allow an unlimited number of Taiwanese films to be shown as long as they pass the scrutiny of censors, Taiwanese officials said.
Taiwan's government has insisted that the deal is important for the export-dependent island's economic survival. Despite decades of animosity, the similar language and culture between the two sides have helped make China Taiwan's biggest trade partner and export market. Trade between the two sides reached $80 billion in 2009; it was at $100 billion before the economic downturn.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says the deal is about economics, not politics, and that Taiwan's democracy can fend off undue pressure from Beijing.
We are of course aware of the political ambitions of mainland China toward us during this period, but we cannot let this make us afraid, pull back or avoid trying to move forward," Ma said during a recent televised debate on the trade deal. "We have confidence in Taiwan, in Taiwan businesses and in Taiwan's democracy."
For China's leaders, though, this probably is more about politics than economics.
They hope this deal will help them to win hearts and minds in Taiwan.
That is important if they are ever to achieve their goal of bringing the island back under the control of Beijing.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Taipei on Saturday as Taiwan prepares to seal a major trade deal with Beijing that opponents fear is a step towards Chinese control.
"Oppose ECFA!", "Save Taiwan!", protesters shouted at the march in downtown Taipei organised by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Even AFP used the formulation "tens of thousands." Obviously more than 32,000 were there.
The agreement is the jewel in the crown of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of seeking closer economic ties to ease tension across the Taiwan Strait, a flash point since the two sides split amid civil war in 1949.
But closer political and economic ties could also serve China's long-term goal of returning the self-ruled island to its control, the fundamental aim of its Taiwan policy.
Finally! A number of media outlets are openly acknowledging that the purpose of ECFA is to drag Taiwan into China's orbit, and not attributing that to the opposition as a mere claim. Thanks, guys. Now isn't it time to deal with the ridiculous "split in 1949" formula?
J Michael's account of his experience at the protest.
- Way cool: Couchsurfing
- Jon Adams with another score in Global Post on China and the islands in the South China Sea.
- AFP goes there, says DPP is "anti-Chinese."
- Nanshan Deal hits another roadblock as Chinatrust allows MOU to expire. Lots of interesting stuff happening with this deal...
- Burma buys 50 Chinese fighter jets
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