Thu, Dec 23, 2010 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Security overkill robs envoy, public

To say the government went overboard in the scale of police presence to protect Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) would be an understatement. Even President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) doesn’t enjoy such overkill.

Chen was escorted out of the airport straight from the apron, with checkpoints and police squads deployed along the motorcade route leading to Taipei’s Grand Hotel. On a trip to the National Palace Museum, his motorcade included five police cars, three police vans and six luxury sedans, with walls of police officers deployed inside and outside of the museum. Museum Director Chou Kung-hsin (周功鑫) arranged a special tour for Chen and his wife, with exhibition areas cleared of other visitors.

A large police presence was also visible at the Taipei International Flora Expo when Chen visited yesterday morning before heading home at noon. The Taipei City Police Department said a total of 394 police officers were dispatched for this event.

So much for Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) saying no special arrangements had been made, since Chen was blatantly given preferential treatment. The expo opened its doors at 7:50am instead of its usual 9am starting time for Chen, and metal detectors were set up at the various entrances for all expo visitors. Then there was the special route the Taipei City Government mapped out for Chen’s expo tour, which amazingly managed to keep him away from any and all sites where a Republic of China flag could be seen. That certainly took some fancy footwork.

Given that Chen was a guest, it was only natural for the host county to try to ensure his safety for the sake of a smooth sixth round of cross-strait talks, and any use of violence by demonstrators should be condemned. However, such arrangements should not come at the expense of inconveniencing other visitors to the museum and flora expo, or disenfranchising the Taiwanese public’s right to freedom of expression by muzzling them and dragging them away from locations where Chen was present.

Before Chen arrived in Taipei on Monday, Straits Exchange Foundation Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) said Taiwan was a mature democratic society and he hoped that everyone could express their opinion in a rational way. His “hopes” were revealed to be nothing more than drivel and pap, as Taiwanese were forced out of Chen’s sight if they wanted to exercise their freedom of speech.

If anything, Chen’s stay at the Grand Hotel returned that icon of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) dictatorship back into a beacon of martial law, with demonstrators’ banners ripped down and forcible evictions.

Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said yesterday that a total of 1,525 police officers were deployed for Chen’s security, a far cry from the 6,131 officers deployed during Chen’s visit last year and the 8,752 assigned for his first visit in November 2008. Even so, 1,525 for a low-ranking Chinese functionary was absurd.

As Kao said — Taiwan is a mature democratic society where people are free to express themselves within reasonable range without harming others. If it’s okay for President Ma to be heckled by the public, why shouldn’t Chen have the rare chance to experience first-hand what freedom of expression really means?

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