14 Nov 2008

[Rationale] Why the National Security Bureau Director and National Police Agency Director-General Must Take Responsibility - A Tribute to the Police

Since the 6th of November 2008, students and professors across the nation joined an unplanned sit-in demonstration. The catalyst for this unplanned sit-in was the blatant excessive law enforcement tactics during the Chinese envoy visit which clearly threatened the basic rights of Taiwanese citizens. Later that evening, we were saddened by the news that the Democratic Progressive Party’s “Siege” protest activities resulted in violent clashes. Regardless of acts committed by law enforcement or the protesters, we do not believe that violence is the answer. Since the inception of the Wild Strawberries Movement, we have always maintained a peaceful, rational, and non-violent manner. On the 7th of November 2008, law enforcement officers surrounded us and dragged every single student and professor at this peaceful sit-in onto a police transport. Many students observed the reluctance (and at times tearful) displayed by police officers. As we relocated to Liberty Square with the intention to stage a long-term sit-in, we are grateful for these officers for allowing and assisting us to continue this sit-in peacefully. That said, it remains our duty to condemn and reject any illegal acts of violence, whether it be committed by the police or citizens.

Some have questioned us since "Police is only doing their job, why the continuing condemnation?", thus the Wild Strawberries participants would like to take this opportunity to pay tributes and a heart felt thanks to our hardworking front line police. If it weren't for them, it would be quite impossible to have a stable, peaceful life. However with acknowledging the above, we still demonstrated, we insisted to protest in the Liberty Square. Why is that so?

Because we are confused. Confused about during Chen's visit, police have hurt the ones they should be protecting. We're confused by police's action when Chen Yu-Ching(陳育青) was recording the Chinese envoy with his own personal video recorder; He was questioned upon by the police, and even brought back to the police station against his will, his personal freedom was restrained until the arrival of a local representative. We're confused when a record store playing a piece of music would induce the police to ban it from playing, even led to involuntarily closure of the shop. We're confused because when a guest have arrived, people having different expectations and reactions are only natural to a democratic society; however what would force the police to confiscate the national flag or even Tibetan flag and hording members of the public, restricting their speech and freewill? What kind of policies were involved, to disrupt the harmony which existed between police and ordinary citizen by carrying out orders which clearly violated human rights, subsequently the public were left feeling defeated, jaded with a sense of angst. We are confused, what kind of policy, led to such grotesque outcome?

Wild Strawberries are deeply grateful for our police, they've endured unimaginable pressure for up keeping the order of our society. At the same time to continue and strengthen our foundation as a democratic country, we insists the responsibility of violating human rights due to abusive police power under active investigation. During Chen's visit, undeniably government is to protect the guest's safety with a thorough and sound security measure in place, however a benevolent and capable government should not disregard "basic rights" of it's citizens when carrying out policies. Therefore, we will hold the decision makers of the highest level responsible, at the same time acknowledging the amount of hard-work our police endured while carrying out their duty. The Chief of National Police Agency in charge of organising police, while Director General of National Security Bureau manages guests' safety. Together they planned and managed the police, policies in handling situations and limits of law enforcement. Due to the fact that during the period of Chen's visit, there were numerous accounts of violation of human rights, therefore we do not see ways to treat these events as matter of contingency and thus shifting the responsibilities onto the front line police. Our postulation being that the violation occurred due to government's overall inappropriate planning, and was poorly executed. Hence Wild Strawberries insists the head of both National Security Bureau and National Police Agency to take the responsibility of the violations and step down to revive public trust in police.

Wild Strawberries believe that we should pay our tribute to our police forces, for their untiring service to the nation, from everyday upkeep to enforcement of order during special occasions. At the same time, we strongly protest the police's obvious abuse of their power, since no policy formulation should involve violating human rights. The human rights violations which happened during Chen's visit should not be treated as a random accidental event. We would like to point out the violations which happened were due to absurd planning of the overall security measures. In a mature democratic society, any unreasonable violence should be condemned, at the same time government forces who hold the power given by the people would be wise to consider policies discreetly to avoid restraining citizens' basic rights. The Taiwanese democracy did not fell from the sky, thus we insist the heads of National Police Agency and National Security bureau must resign and apologise for their inaptness.

[Wanted] Observation/ News/ Feedback/ Support (in English)

It have been a week since the sit-in movement was launched. And the English blog is built with all your contribution, on spreading, reading, and writing. In every case, we need more articles in English here!!
What we are looking for:
1. I noticed that there are some articles in the individual blog which is written in English regards to this movement. I would like to gather some here.
2. You may want to translate any news from the world media, like German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean... into English.
3. Your observation and feedback on any news, phenomena during this movement.
4. Illustration on Human Rights in the recent World (i.e., cases from other countries) and in the history

To communicate and spread the idea, we need your participation. If you wish to support this blog, please send articles in English to taiwanstudentmovement2008@gmail.com .

The formant:
1. The summary (Brief and Concise)
2. The link to the original article (on blog, news...)
3. Your identity (and in which name you would like to be posted, or anonymous.)

Thanks for your attribution towards the blog, the movement, the development of democracy and the protection of human rights in Taiwan!

Ma: Two Officials Must Reflect, Not Step Down

By Wang Yu Chung, Peng Hsien Jun, Huang Duen Yien

Published: 11/13/2008 The Liberty Times

President Ma Ying-jeou responded officially for the first time yesterday to the Wild Strawberry Movement's demand that the National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun and National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chao-ming step down. Ma said that their actions warrant an evaluation, but "do not warrant dismissals."

As for the students’ demand that President Ma and Premier Liu apologize for excessive law enforcement tactics used during the Chinese envoy’s visit, Ma pointed out that one must look at the larger picture. The agreements signed between the two sides and the atmosphere created laid the foundation for improved cross-straight relations and will be beneficial to Taiwan's international standing.

Ma indicated that police enforcement may have caused some unintentional injuries, citing a TV reporter’s case as an example. Minister of Interior Liao Liou-yi has apologized on several occasions and will assess law enforcement tactics. That said, recent police activities in maintaining public safety should be considered as a success.

The National Police Agency mentioned that accusations made by the Wild Strawberries Movement were turned over to the Taipei City Police Department Bureau for further investigation.

With regard to the student’s appeal to amend the Parade and Assembly Law from its current approval and permission requirement to allowing citizens to simply inform authorities of assembly plans is consistent with his position. He appreciates the students’ assistance in helping him realize his campaign promises.

However, Ma pointed out that recent polls indicated that there are varying opinions on amending the legislation as a result of the violence and bloody scenes from the November 6th rally. Changing the system does not imply that individuals may simply call the police immediately before staging demonstrations. For instance, Germany allows its citizens to inform authorities of demonstration plans ahead of time, but law enforcement reserves the right to reject such plans. Ma emphasized that a permit system may not necessarily be restrictive, while system of informing authorities may not be lax. The key issue is not about whether to inform authorities, but about violent activities.

Kuomintang’s Central Standing Committee also discussed revising the legislation. Party Chairman Wu Po-hsiung specifically called on the Democratic Progressive Party to dissociate itself with corruption and violence.

Furthermore, some KMT Central Standing Committee members proposed a visit to Liu Po-yen, a self-professed old KMT member who committed self-immolation two days ago. The KMT stated that Liu did not register in 2000 and is no longer a party member. He has switched political alignment [from pro-Blue to pro-Green] and has been consuming more DPP-friendly media content, making an official visit from the KMT unnecessary.

Translated from http://www.libertytimes.com.tw/2008/new/nov/13/today-p2.htm

[SCMP] Ties that blind--Improved cross-strait relations appear to have come at a cost to some civil liberties in Taiwan

Jerome Cohen (Former Supervisor of President Ma)
Updated on Nov 13, 2008

Last week's historic visit to Taiwan by Beijing's cross-strait chief, Chen Yunlin , which culminated in four useful agreements, focused attention on issues of human rights as well as politics. Some issues concerned the proper government response to public protests in a free society. Others involved fair investigation of former and present government leaders suspected of corruption.

Chinese have recognised the importance of protecting foreign envoys for almost 3,000 years. The feudal states that contended for power before establishment of the Qin dynasty reciprocally assured the personal safety of their emissaries. Such protection has continued to be indispensable to inter-state co-operation.

After police in Tainan failed to prevent an assault on Mr Chen's deputy, president Ma Ying-jeou's government was obligated to do better during Mr Chen's visit. Although police could not prevent Mr Chen from being trapped in a hotel for eight hours by a huge mob of protesters, they did defend him against bodily harm throughout a stressful week.

In doing so, they went beyond the limits of a free society, forbidding peaceful protesters from displaying Taiwanese and Tibetan flags, confiscating flags from demonstrators, closing a store that played Taiwanese songs and seeking to minimise the visitors' awareness of the protests. There were also incidents of police brutality, albeit sometimes in response to violent provocations by demonstrators.

The police misconduct even outraged many local supporters of Mr Chen's visit. Mr Ma, in addition to implementing his campaign pledge to sponsor revision of the Assembly and Parade Law to eliminate protesters' need for advance official permission, should recommend amendments prohibiting the kind of undemocratic police practices that recently occurred and order training designed to enhance police compliance with the law. It is encouraging to note that Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, who led the massive opposition demonstration, has subsequently called not only for a government review of police misconduct but also for a re-examination by her own party of its failures to maintain order among its demonstrators. The DPP, if it is to fulfil its essential role as democratic opposition, must not degenerate into an army of street fighters.

Some Taiwanese and foreign critics took the occasion of Mr Chen's visit to call attention to another crucial feature of democratic government - the fair prosecution of current and former officials suspected of corruption. The critics voiced three serious complaints about recent arrests and incommunicado detentions of prominent DPP figures who have served as government officials. They imply that the DPP is being singled out for prosecutions while corruption among Kuomintang leaders is being ignored. They also claim that: most DPP suspects have been held incommunicado without a court examination of the justification for their detentions; and that prosecutors' offices have been leaking detrimental information about the suspects to the media while denying them knowledge of the leaks and a chance to refute the "trial by press".

These practices, it is said, bring into question the political neutrality of the judiciary, and the presumption of innocence and other elements of due process required for the fair and open trials essential to democracy, raising the spectre of the unjust procedures of "the dark days of martial law" (1947-1987). It is not clear whether critics' claims of "selective prosecution" are well founded. Recent arrests may simply reflect massive corruption by the DPP, which dominated executive government for the past eight years - corruption that allegedly reached as high as former president Chen Shui-bian and his family.

Oddly, although during the Chen administration some prosecutions were brought against both DPP and KMT figures, some obvious KMT targets were overlooked despite reportedly thick dossiers compiled by Control Yuan investigators. Mr Ma should appoint a commission of impartial experts to review such prosecutions.

It does not appear that any of the recently detained DPP figures were denied a court hearing or their right to counsel. Moreover, there is a legislative basis for the courts' decisions to detain them incommunicado for up to four months of investigation if there is a reasonable basis for believing that the suspects might otherwise falsify evidence. Yet, in view of the harshness of this pre-indictment sanction and the obstacles it creates to mounting an adequate defence, it ought to be invoked rarely.

Certainly, the Legislative Yuan, or the commission suggested here, should re-examine legislation to strike a new balance between the threat of corruption to a democratic government and the threat of incommunicado detention to civil liberty.

The charge of biased prosecution leaks to the press seems to be the most straightforward of the critics' complaints. Such leaks, which occur in many countries, do appear to have taken place and cannot be allowed in a democratic system.

Jerome A. Cohen is co-director of NYU's US-Asia Law Institute and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations