On International Human Rights Day, President Ma Ying-jeou vowed to safeguard human rights, saying that “= st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Taiwan enjoys the freest parades and assemblies around the world.” Less than four hours after Human Rights Day, at 4 am on December 11th 2008, law enforcement authorities dispatched approximately 300 officers and numerous police transport wagons surrounding Liberty Square. Wild Strawberries demonstrators and approximately 100 exiled Tibetans were forcibly removed from the square via police transport wagons.
The Wild Strawberries strongly protest against such excessive police tactics to disperse the students, especially given the most recent rational and peaceful rally (on Sunday) and the subsequent publicly announced intention of leaving the Square as well as the close communication with police officers on the logistics. Clearly the new Zhongzheng Bureau chief Chen Ming-cheng (unlike his predecessor) ignored signs of good faith and refused to believe that the students were planning to leave Liberty Square, considering he forcibly removed the students at 4:00 a.m., when students were fast asleep and media reporters had left for the day. We challenge President Ma’s notion that Taiwan enjoys freedom of parade and assembly and questions whether the current Administration can only tolerate opposition voices for a month. More importantly, was unexpectedly dispersing the students at 4:00 a.m. the best response from President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-hsung?
Around 4 a.m., police officers and several police transport wagons arrived at Liberty Square to prepare to remove protesters. Within the hour, officers forcibly took 111 Tibetans away and increased to four police wagons. At around 4:30 AM, more than 300 officers surrounded 40 students, who then staged an impromptu sit-in and called out “Abuse of State Power, Unconstitutional Parade and Assembly Law”. Assistant Professor Lee Ming-tsung (of the National Taiwan University’s Department of Sociology) rushed to the square and negotiated with the police. Officers indicated that if the Wild Strawberries had not assisted the Tibetan protesters [with resources left over from the Wild Strawberries sit-in], they would not have forcibly dispersed the incoming protesters (exiled Tibetans).
After negotiation efforts failed, the police started to remove the students’ supplies at the Square and soon after, the students themselves. Several students were injured during the removal process; one male student was kicked by the police. To add insult to injury, officers were disrespectful towards and ridiculed the students, all the while almost gleefully declared that they can “finally take them away.” Around 5:20 a.m., the police dragged and carried 40-some students onto the transport wagons.
The Wild Strawberries condemn the enforcement of the unconstitutional Parade and Asssembly Law and the unfair treatment towards the exiled Tibetans, who did not resist police efforts to disperse them. While the Wild Strawberries were transported to the front gates of National Taiwan University via three police transport wagons [in Taipei], exiled Tibetans who are far less familiar with the city were transported to Neihu’s Dahu Park and Guandu [suburbs of Taipei]. Towards the end of the removal operation as the police was speaking to the press, a supporter of Tibet shouted out “Ma Ying-jeou - please save Tibet.”
That the forcible removal by the police was the result of the Wild Strawberries helping out exiled Tibetans indicates the authoritarian nature of our current Administration as well as the Administration’s fear of more unified and collaborative citizens. In Europe and the United States, the rights of exiled Tibetans are safeguarded and humanitarian assistance is often offered. On the other hand, the Ma Administration’s hypocrisy is painfully apparent: while President Ma recently stated the H.E. Dalai Lama will be invited to visit Taiwan at the “appropriate time,” the Administration decided to forcibly remove exiled Tibetans and the Wild Strawberries (who offered assistance) during the wee hours, and only four hours after the International Human Rights Day. Police action begs the question of how President Ma can declare that Taiwan will become a human rights country.
Last but not least, the Wild Strawberries strongly condemn the lack of legal grounds for the police to remove the resources at Liberty Square [which were to be donated to exiled Tibetans]. The Wild Strawberries will file a formal complaint and demand a full police report citing Article 29 of the “Police Enforcement Act.”
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