Since Taiwan's conciliatory Nationalist Party came to power in 2008, the two sides have set aside political differences to negotiate 20 deals related to trade and investment.
Officials say the service trade pact would modernize a large service industry, from banks to beauty salons, on an island led economically by its high-tech exports.
Many protesters say they are open to trade with China but worry that the Nationalist Party administration under President Ma Ying-jeou is moving too fast, not sharing the details of its trade deal negotiations with a public that remains leery of Beijing's political goals.
"I hope it can be passed in a more cautious way," says Liu I-cheng, 29, one of the protesters at parliament. "I don't totally oppose ties with China. I just don't want Taiwan to be unified with China."
As the Nationalists face tense local elections this year, they are expected to slow the trade pact's approval process in favor of opposition party-backed protesters, whose ranks grew Sunday after Ma made statements defending the trade pact without offering a compromise.
"They can only give some ground, meaning have a dialogue face to face with the protesters, or this situation will never end," says Hsu Yung-ming, political scientist with Soochow University in Taipei.
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