10 Nov 2008

Action Statement 1108

Movement Origins

We are a group of university professors, students, cultural workers, and citizens who are concerned about Taiwan's current state of disorder and future development. Over the past few days, we have seen numerous instances of police overreaction and suppression, which have caused injury to citizens exercising their right to free speech. Through reports in the media, we have come to realize the seriousness of the current situation. It is no longer a technical question of excessive law enforcement tactics, nor is it simply a partisan issue between supporters of various political parties. This is a proliferation of state sponsored violence that is challenging and attacking civil society. Our concern over this state of affairs led us to peacefully protest at the gates of the Executive Yuan, beginning at 11AM on November 6. At 4PM on November 7, we were dispersed by the police. We have since regrouped at former Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, where we plan to engage in a long term struggle.

Against Police Overreaction and the Suppression of Human Rights

Inappropriate acts taken by police in recent days include the following: Forcibly shutting down major highways, prohibiting citizens from waving the national flag in public, prohibiting citizens from stating that "Taiwan does not belong to China" in public, confiscating the personal property of citizens, such as flags and signs with slogans, forcibly detaining citizens filming areas near the Grand Hotel with handheld camcorders, without following due process, preventing citizens from flying balloons protesting toxic Chinese food products, and forcibly detaining citizens on a moped carrying a Tibetan flag, ordering the closure of a music store playing Taiwanese music. The police have tried to justify these repressive actions by claiming violations of the Assembly and Parade Law, the Social Order Maintenance Law, and invoking the Regulations on Police Duties, while ignoring the fact that their actions are in violation of the Constitution, Civil Law, and other higher level laws guaranteeing the peoples' free speech and property rights.

On the Importance of Personal Freedom

We believe in the importance of freedom. Imagine for a moment what would have resulted had the government ordered the police to crack down on the 2007 Red Shirt demonstration in front of the Presidential Office. The citizens of Taiwan would not have had the opportunity to listen to other opinions. It was only because they were not dispersed that different voices could be heard. Only by being exposed to numerous different viewpoints, can we learn how to determine for ourselves the quality of different opinions. This is an essential requirement for a functioning civil society which illustrates the importance of free speech. It is because free speech is so important that its protection is enshrined in the Constitution. Other laws must support the Constitution, facilitating its execution and specifying its limits. Despite this, the Assembly and Parade Law -- left over from the authoritarian days of martial law, gravely damages the right to free speech. By requiring protesting citizens to acquire a permit for a lawful demonstration, rather than simply notifying the government beforehand, it allows protests to be declared illegal before they even take place. Its excessive provisions for restricted areas off limits to protesters, allows governmental organs to insulate themselves from being challenged by public opinion. By granting the police excessive powers, it allows the police to take the place of judges in a court of law.


Amend the Assembly and Parade Law

We provide the following suggestions for revising the Assembly and Parade Law: (1) Change the current permit system to a notification system. The government has no right to examine the peoples' motivations beforehand, and declare unfavorable demonstrations to be illegal before they even take place; (2) Re-examine the current provisions for restricted areas. Demonstrations and marches allow unarmed citizens without any other means to make their grievances known and petition for redress. The current restricted areas do not allow the people to challenge governmental agencies; (3) Clarify permissible actions by the police in enforcing the law. Do not grant a blank check for the police to exercise whatever methods they see fit; (4) Make the new law an administrative law, rather then penal law. Compare to other laws, the current Assembly and Parade Law leads to heavier punishment than the other illegal actions, which is obviously violating the principle of proportionality.

Cope with Police Personnel Engaging in Inappropriate Behavior

The recent clashes between the people and the police have left us with a great sense of sorrow. We have been asked why we have not stood out to condemn violent mob behavior. To this, we provide the following response: We are determined to protect and support the people in freely expressing their opinions, and condemn any and all acts of violence, be they from the people or the police. From the many events of the past few days, we have seen that while violent acts on the part of the people can be regulated by law, law enforcement agencies can also abuse their power to justify unlimited brutality without any appropriate restriction or regulation. It is because of this that we condemn the government and the police for increasingly ignoring the law, and for inappropriate use of force to violently suppress the rights of the people to freely express their views. We request that a full investigation be carried out to identify police officers who abused their authority, and that appropriate punitive measures are taken. Additionally, the directors of the police and national security agencies who are ultimately responsible must step down.

President Ma must Apologize

The use of force by police is a symbol of state sponsored violence, and should only be used when absolutely necessary to safeguard the rights of the people to life, liberty, and property. Its use should never be employed without the utmost care. However, police agencies are only passive mechanisms that execute the orders issued to them. The positions and directives of the government, as well as the ruling party, will directly impact how rank and file police officers go about their duties. We condemn the administration of President Ma Ying-Jeou for trampling on the spirit of freedom and democracy that are fundamental to the foundation of our nation, and demand that he apologize.

Launch a movement of Civil Disobedience

We are a movement of civil disobedience initiated by students, and with students as our core. When the government invokes the unconstitutional Assembly and Parade Law, or abuses lawful governmental authority, subsequent governmental actions are illegitimate. The people have a right to refuse to obey illegitimate governmental actions. We hope that all people who agree with our statement will join us in this movement to demand that President Ma Ying-Jeou and Premier Liu Chao-Shiuan apologize to all citizens; that National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-Chiun and National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chao-Ming step down; and that the Legislative Yuan immediately amend the Assembly and Parade Law so that it does not threaten the rights of the people.

The original version: http://action1106.blogspot.com/2008/11/1106_7181.html

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