Manhandled: Riot police officers nabbing a protester outside the Executive Yuan during a demonstration in Taipei. - AFP
TAIPEI: Taiwan riot police unleashed water cannon to dislodge hundreds of demonstrators who had stormed government headquarters in violent scenes that dramatically escalated a days-old protest against a trade pact with China.
After nearly a week-long occupation of Taiwan’s parliament, the protesters on late Sunday also infiltrated the Executive Yuan where the Cabinet offices are located, pulling down barbed-wire barricades outside and using ladders to break into offices on the second floor.
The assault came after President Ma Ying-jeou refused to back down on the trade pact, rejecting opposition claims that he was effectively handing Taiwan’s economy over to Chinese control after six decades of political separation.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah, whose office is in the Executive Yuan building, said at least 110 people were injured, including 52 police officers, while 61 arrests were made.
Some protesters damaged windows and doors of ministerial offices and tried to remove government documents before they were stopped, but the premier’s office was not breached, officials said.
Riot police yesterday dragged up people sitting on the ground, and used riot shields to push the crowds back while some of the demonstrators tried to grab their batons and pelted them with plastic bottles.
Two water cannon trucks were then deployed, eventually subduing the crowd and clearing the building.
“Suddenly, water was spraying at us and it was very powerful. My glasses flew off and I was very dizzy,” protester Frank Hsieh, a former premier from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said.
One injured male protester lay on the ground receiving medical care, while another was led away with blood streaming down his face, journalists saw.
“The government denounces violence and dispersed the crowd according to the law. We will not tolerate actions designed to paralyse the government,” the presidential office said in a statement.
But the DPP, which historically has favoured formal independence for Taiwan, called on Ma to respond to the protesters’ demands and scrap the pact. — AFP