Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: June 25: A dark day for Taiwan

June 25 this year was a historic day for Taiwan. Not because China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) was in Taiwan to meet with his counterpart, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), beginning what they called an “important step” toward building government-to-government contact and normalizing communication channels to deal with cross-strait issues, but because it marked yet another dark day in Taiwan’s history of democracy, in which human rights — a key asset of Taiwan — were trampled on.

Two rooms booked by rights activist and attorney Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) on Tuesday at the Novotel Hotel were barged into by a group of “unidentified people” on Wednesday morning who demanded that people in the room leave the hotel before Zhang was to meet Wang later that day at the hotel. Since the hotel staff and the police failed to remove them from the rooms before Zhang’s arrival, more than a dozen police officers stood guard outside the rooms, prohibiting those inside from leaving. According to Lai, he and six other members of Democracy Tautin were merely planning to hang protest banners from the windows of their hotel rooms.

The obstruction by the police of the group’s freedom of movement and expression are another negative mark chalked up for the President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s human rights record.

Wednesday’s raid is reminiscent of the incident six years ago during then-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) first visit to Taiwan in 2008. Police broke into Grand Hotel rooms without cause or warrant after a group of Democratic Progressive Party Taichung City councilors exercised their freedom of speech by unfurling banners from the balcony. As law enforcement personnel involved in that incident to this day have not been held responsible for these violations of human rights, it should come as no surprise that history repeated itself on Wednesday.

The Novotel Hotel, in its defense, said it called police in accordance with the Regulations for the Administration of Hotel Enterprises (旅館業管理規則), which stipulate that hotels should report information on lodgers to the local police department daily and report any “forcible taking of lodging without presenting proper identification documentation.”

However, as the Novotel Hotel is a tourist hotel, it is arguable whether the Regulations for the Administration of Tourism Hotel Enterprises (觀光業旅館管理規則) should be applied instead. While the Regulations for the Administration of Tourism Hotel Enterprises do require hotels to report information on guests to the local police department daily, there is no statute allowing it to call police for what it claimed was “forcible taking of lodging without presenting proper identification documentation.”

In Wang’s welcoming remarks on Wednesday, he said he hoped Zhang could experience Taiwan’s energetic and diverse society during his stay and he urged Zhang to “listen to Taiwanese people.” How is Zhang to experience first-hand what freedom of expression really means and hear Taiwanese voices when the Ma administration forces Taiwanese out of Zhang’s sight?

While it is normal for Taiwan, the host country, to try to ensure a guest’s safety, such arrangements should not come at the expense of having the public’s right to freedom of expression taken away, freedom of mobility usurped and people being forcibly dragged away from locations where Zhang is present.

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