Mon, Sep 30, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Big brother is watching

Activists throughout Taiwan are concerned that the NSB is keeping tabs on them with a list similar to that used for hardened criminals

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Police officers film a protest in front of the Miaoli County government on Aug. 18.

Photo: TT

Lala Lin (林羿含) says she has never stolen anything in her life and always obeys traffic laws. But thanks to a police officer’s slip of the tongue, she recently found out that she is on a “risky offenders” watch list, the kind used to monitor Taiwan’s most dangerous criminals.

Lin says the police officer in question visited her family home in Greater Tainan’s Sinying District (新營) a month ago. “My dad answered the door, and a police officer, seemingly clueless, asked if he knew what I did because I was on their watch list,” says the 25-year-old rock singer, who wasn’t home at the time.

According to the Police Duties Enforcement Act (警察職權行使法), convicts who commit major crimes — murder, rape, kidnapping or robbery — are listed as risky offenders (治安顧慮人口) for a certain period of time after they are released from prison so that local police can keep tabs on them.

So what exactly did Lin do wrong?

She isn’t too certain, but it could have something to do with a rally she attended and performed at in front of the Miaoli County Government on Aug. 16 to protest the forced demolition of private homes in Dapu Borough (大埔), as well as other development projects across the country. A month earlier, she was arrested for filming three other protestors splashing paint on the residence of Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung’s (劉政鴻) in Houlong Township (後龍), after the politician unexpectedly sent in police-escorted demolition squads to tear down four houses in Dapu. The four activists were accused of defamation of a government institution and destruction of private property.

The charges were later dropped.

“I am scared, but I chose to come forward since it isn’t just about me. Many people are monitored by the government,” Lin says.

INTIMIDATION

Lin is not the only one who has been visited by police. Having participated in the Dapu protests and against wind turbines in Yuanli Township (苑裡), Miaoli County, university student Hsu En-en (許恩恩) says that last month a police officer went to her parent’s home in Fengshan (鳳山), Greater Kaohsiung, and told her mother that she had participated in demonstrations and had previously been arrested. Hsu wasn’t home at the time.

“The officer told my mom that she should contact my school and pay more attention to what I have been doing,” says Hsu, who studies at National Taipei University in New Taipei City.

But the police officer didn’t have the correct facts. While he told Hsu’s mother that her daughter was arrested for protesting in Dapu in May, she was actually arrested for attempting to stop the construction work of wind turbines in Yuanli in April.

Hsu feels the visit by the police is meant to be a warning.

“My mom had an emotional breakdown ... I am afraid to go home still,” she says. “I have stopped doing things that are dangerous or provocative.”

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

Days after the officer visited the Lin household, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and other lawmakers held a joint press conference. They alleged that hundreds of students, academics and activists involved in protests over land expropriation in Dapu have been monitored by the National Security Bureau’s (NSB, 國家安全局) third department (第三處), which is in charge of the nation’s homeland security and intelligence work.

In response, the NSB issued a brief press release denying the accusations. Deputy Director-General Lin Kuo-tung (林國棟) of the National Police Agency (NPA, 警政署) also denied that Lala Lin was listed as a “risky offender,” justifying the visit to her home as part of efforts by police to reach out to the public through “direct communication” (熱線接觸).

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