Updated Saturday, November 15, 2008 10:20 am TWN, CNA
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The organizers of a recently established student movement pushing for reform of Taiwan’s assembly law announced yesterday their plan to expand their ongoing sit-in protest.
According to Lin Yu-hsuan, spokesman for the Taiwan Wild Strawberries Movement, the sit-in, which has been held at Taipei’s Liberty Square since last Friday, will be expanded on Saturday and is expected to draw approximately 1,000 participants, including student representatives from Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung.
The sit-in once saw around 500 students participate, but the number has dropped to below 100 over the past few days as many returned to school to sit for midterm exams.
Lin said the group does not rule out the possibility that politicians sympathizing with their cause may be invited to take part. They have previously banned non students from participating.
Lin said the group will continue their peaceful demonstration until their appeals are answered, with disregard for possible dispersal by the police.
Over the past week, the group of students has been staging the sit-in to protest against what they called the use of excessive force by police to disperse pro-independence demonstrators who protested against the recent visit to Taiwan by a Chinese envoy.
The envoy, Chen Yunlin, president of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, is China’s top negotiator with Taiwan. He was in the country from Nov. 3-7 to sign four non-political pacts with his Taiwan counterpart Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation.
Some protesters, who feared the visit and agreements would jeopardize Taiwan’s independence and sovereignty, threw bottles and rocks at police and pushed down police barricades. Police responded by spraying water at the protesters, scuffling with some of them, and arresting others.
In addition to demanding an open apology from President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan, the student group is also asking for the replacement of National Security Bureau Director General Tsai Chao-ming and National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun.
Furthermore, the students want the Parade and Assembly Law be amended to relax its restrictions on people’s right to demonstrate. Protesters had complained their application to protest in many areas were rejected. Ma said in a radio interview Wednesday that Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi has on many occasions apologized over the alleged misconduct by law-enforcement officers and promised to review the methods adopted by the police in performing their duties.
Ma admitted there was room for improvement in the performance of Tsai and Wang in handling the demonstrations, but said “this was not to an extent where they should be removed from their posts.”
The president said the legislative caucus of the ruling Kuomintang will hold a public hearing to discuss a possible amendment to the Parade and Assembly law, with representatives of the protesting students to be invited to express their opinions at the hearing.