Sun, Feb 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Changing protesters into policymakers

The New Power Party (NPP) on Tuesday said it would ignore a police summons for questioning over the party’s protest in front of the Presidential Office Building last month.

NPP Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) and NPP Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) urged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to amend the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) soon, which they said President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has long promised, but failed to act on.

While this might be so, current regulations restrict rallies and demonstrations near the Presidential Office Building, and although the police and Presidential Office Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) urged protesters to leave the protest site, they remained for several days.

“This has overextended the Taipei police, diverting them from their regular duties of maintaining social order and public safety, regulating road traffic and other security tasks,” Taipei Police Department Zhongzheng District First Precinct Chief Liao Tsai-chen (廖材楨) said at the time.

Huang and Hsu conversely accused the police of using excessive force in tearing down their tents, as well as erecting barricades to prevent more people from joining the protest.

Doing so violated provisions of the Criminal Code, they said.

Their defiance toward the police and the Presidential Office is reminiscent of the Sunflower movement from which they emerged, leaving some to question how effectively they have made the transition to sanctioned politics.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) denounced the protest as an “irrational boycott” of the legislation and questioned the consistency of their demands.

“Although the NPP was vocally critical about the ‘one fixed day off and one flexible rest day’ policy during the last revision of the [Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) in 2015], they now say that no changes should be made,” Ker said on Jan. 7, adding that about 60 percent of respondents to opinion polls supported revising the policy.

“[We] have negotiated with the NPP for a long time. Their political strategy is to divide DPP supporters with radical policies. Further negotiations will not yield a different result,” Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) said on Facebook at the time.

What does the NPP hope to achieve with the protest? US Democrats joined protesters last month as part of the global Women’s March movement, but their purpose in doing so was very clear.

The British daily the Independent quoted former march organizer Linda Sarsour as telling The Associated Press that politicians joined the demonstrations in Las Vegas last month because Nevada is a “swing state that gave [former US secretary of state] Hillary Clinton a narrow win in the presidential election and will have one of the most competitive US Senate races in 2018.”

Arguably, the NPP’s sit-in was significantly less “irrational” than scuffles in the Legislative Yuan in July last year when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) slapped DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) across the face, and others threw flour and water balloons — all due to disagreements surrounding the DPP’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.

However, unlike the US Democrats’ participation in the Women’s March, the NPP sit-in is unlikely to rouse new support for the party, nor will it get the labor amendments retracted, if that is what the NPP had hoped to achieve. More likely, the demonstration was only theatrics intended to appease supporters who might otherwise have thought the NPP was too idle.

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