A coerced silence
Kaohsiung city councilors have expressed concern over the treatment of the personnel director at a Kaohsiung elementary school who was ordered to write a 3,000-word report after saying on an online forum that Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has damaged the city’s external relations.
Kaohsiung Education Bureau Director-General Wu Rong-feng (吳榕?) said that the director is not a councilor or legislator, and cannot arbitrarily criticize the city government. He also said that is the reason he gave the director a report listing what the city has done to help disadvantaged families and bring back teachers that had moved north, and asked him to write 3,000 words about what he learned.
What is wrong with a civil servant, on his own time, expressing his own opinions? For example, why can a city worker not say that the mayor is nowhere to be seen, often speaks a lot of nonsense, frequently is late, that his supporters bully others for the tiniest slight and do not allow civil servants to criticize or try to recall Han? These are criticisms voiced by most Kaohsiung residents expressing their disappointment in Han.
Should the director go against his own conscience and help the mayor spread lies?
Freedom of expression is a constitutionally protected right as long as it does not break the law by involving insults or defamation, or exposing secret information. This applies to everyone, including civil servants.
Asking the director to write a confession is no different from what happened during the White Terror era and it might constitute coercion under the Criminal Code. If the order is not withdrawn, the city’s Education Bureau should be given the same treatment and city councilors should demand that it produce a 3,000-word report for city residents to read.
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