Taiwan continues to see unrest brewing after the 24 days of tension that began with the Sunflower movement’s occupation of the legislative chamber on March 18.
On Friday, about 1,000 people gathered until midnight outside Taipei’s Zhongzheng First Police Precinct, calling on Precinct Police Chief Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧) to resign.
One of several events that triggered the impromptu protest was Taiwan Referendum Alliance convener Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴) running into traffic early on Friday morning to protest against the use of force by police on him and his colleagues as they continued to camp outside the legislative compound after the students left on Thursday night.
The group of mainly elderly protesters led by the 65-year-old Tsay, a civil engineering professor at National Taiwan University (NTU), has staged a sit-in outside the legislature for more than five years to raise public awareness of flaws in the referendum system and demarcation of constituencies.
Their appeals and their contribution have gone largely unnoticed in the media and are a poignant highlighting of the deficiencies of the nation’s democracy. They lent quiet support to the Sunflower student movement, for example by paying the Taipei City Government NT$30,000 a day for the right to assemble during the 24-day occupation period.
The forcible removal came after the Taipei City Police Department announced on Wednesday that the permit granted to the alliance on March 19 that allowed it to use the site until Saturday next week had been revoked and the group was blacklisted from organizing a rally for good.
Anger was also fueled by the statement made by Fang earlier that day at the Taipei City Council that he would follow through on these decisions even though the measures violate the public’s constitutional rights to assemble.
The actions to silence dissidents run counter to Taiwan’s democratic development, while the way the police handled the protest’s aftermath further rolled back democracy. However, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) have both wasted no time in praising the police.
National Policy Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) on Thursday rejected the requests made by the legislature’s special committee to investigate the crackdown on the student movement at the Executive Yuan and the video recording of the meeting, which was supposed to be retrievable as video-on-demand online, was missing.
Later in the day the police cordoned off the legislative chamber as if it were a crime scene after the students departed, to collect and preserve evidence, including fingerprints, and some police officers pointed video cameras at students when they walked out of the room, in an apparent attempt to prepare legal action against the protesters.
Another major demonstration against the police occurred in March 1949, sparked by an officer stopping a pair of students from NTU and the Taipei Teachers’ College — now National Taiwan Normal University — for riding two to a bicycle, leading to mass arrests of students on April 6, known as the “April 6 Incident (四六事件),” which triggered the largest student movement before the Martial Law era.
Then-NTU president Fu Si-nian (傅斯年) is remembered for what he said to Peng Meng-chi (彭孟緝), who headed the Taiwan Garrison Command at the time: “I have only one request. There must not be blood spilled when you disperse the students tonight. If a single student bleeds, I’m coming after you.”