Voices from the Taiwan Youth and Workers:
The March 18 Youth’s Occupation of the Parliament
in Protest of the Trade Agreement
Au Loong Yu
March 20, 2014
Since March 19, 20,000 young protesters have been occupying the Taiwan Parliament for more than 36 hours. There are individual protesters carrying banner accusing the president Ma Ying Jeou as “Contemptible Chinese pig”, which reflects a certain kind of Taiwanese nationalist resentment against China in general, failing to differentiate between the Chinese authoritarian government and the Chinese working people who really are the victims of the former. Yet this has not been the position of the main current of the protestors. They are protesting from both the simple idea of defending common people’s livelihood and the aspiration of democracy – the totally undemocratic way of the KMT government in handling the bill drove many into rebellion.
The students released a statement explaining their action, which may clarify the nature of this protest:
“We do not want to see the future Taiwan youth still live on a wage level of 22,000 TWD (about US$720 - Au) in the next ten years! We believe that Taiwan is a place where young people can realize their dream of starting their own business, like running their cafes, or opening their own sole proprietor companies. We always thought Taiwan has always been a heaven for starting one’s own business so that through one’s hard work one could become one’s own boss.
According to scholars’ assessment this service trade agreement will have impact far beyond what the government has claimed, namely that Taiwan is only opening up 64 services sectors to China, without mentioning that these 64 sectors include thousands of sub-sectors, from grocery stores, local eateries, bakeries, stationers , barber shops , advertising design, etc., practically all things covering our daily life and even the full cycle in our life, from cradle to grave……
Our opposition to the trade agreement does not arise from the position of “China bashing”. The biggest problem of this agreement is that, the liberalization of trade only benefit big capital, enabling giant consortium to have access to unlimited, cross- strait expansion, and all these are at the expense of small business….The nature of this agreement, as is the case for other trade agreements like WTO, FTA, TPP etc., are intended to deregulate those arrangements whose objective is to protect the people. Regardless of the political division between Taiwan’s unification and independent, and regardless of the division between Blue (KMT) or Green (DPP), this trade agreement will allow large capital devouring the majority of small peasants, laborers and small business, not to mention the difficulties the future generation of Taiwan will face…..
We want to emphasize that we are not unwilling to accept challenges or competition. We just do not want to enter into unfair competition, or to see our future life left in the hands of small number of ruling elites and cronies, or to see our jobs being controlled by big capitalists across the strait. We want to master our own future, we want to give young people an opportunity and an environment where there are fair competition and development!
These cross- strait business and political ruling elites are always ready to abandon Taiwan, they can always move to any place in the world where cheap labor is abundant. They are like vampires, after sucking clean the youth’s blood here, they begin to look for new prey in other countries… We appeal to all Taiwan 's young people to stop the passage of this trade agreement. ”
The National Workers’ Coalition of Closed Plants also took part in the fight from the beginning. On March 17 it released a statement condemning the government’s trade agreement as simply helping the capitalists to exploit the workers. It points out that the service sector employs 60 percent of labor force, yet for the past ten years service workers’ wages dropped 5.86 percent, much more than the drop of 0.38 percent in the manufacturing. “The entering of new capital into a saturated market will generate even more cut throat competition, which in the end labor will once again being scarified…The real issue here is not whether one should oppose China or not, rather what is at stake is people’s livelihood….We stand on the side of those laboring people who are vulnerable, and resolutely oppose the agenda of the capitalists’ greed.”