TAIPEI (AFP) – Prosecutors in Taiwan on Tuesday charged 118 people over protests last year that saw demonstrators occupy the country’s parliament for several weeks.
Thousands of protesters took part in street demonstrations, dubbed the ‘Sunflower Movement’, against a controversial trade pact with China in March, with more than 200 storming parliament.
Prominent student leaders Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting, along with twenty other protesters, are charged with inciting the public and interfering with public functions, according to a document released by the Taipei prosecutors’ office.
The remainder of those charged are accused of invading government offices and attacking police.
“We’ve sent the case to the district court today,” chief prosecutor Chang Jieh-chin told AFP.
Activist Lai Chung-chiang, who took part in the demonstrations but was not among those indicted Tuesday, decried the charges.
“What we did wasn’t a crime. It was the Kuomintang government’s move that forced us to take the law into our own hands,” he said, referring to the China-friendly ruling Kuomintang party.
“Despite a few radical conflicts, the protests were otherwise peaceful.”
The services trade pact is designed to further open up trade in services between China and Taiwan, which split 65 years ago after a civil war.
President Ma Ying-jeou, who has pursued closer ties with China since coming to power in 2008, has said failure to ratify the deal would be a grave setback to efforts by export-reliant Taiwan to boost trade.
But opponents see the trade deal as damaging Taiwan’s economy and leaving it vulnerable to political pressure from China, which still claims the island more than 60 years after the two governments separated.
Ma has overseen a marked thaw in relations with Beijing since he came to power pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in 2012.