A TV cameraman was run over by a small truck and seriously injured yesterday morning as supporters and opponents of the government's decision to alter the plaque at the National Democracy Memorial Hall clashed near the scene.
ETTV cameraman Wang Jui-chang (王瑞璋) was run over while filming a dispute between members of the Taiwan Independence Union and a truck driver.
A clip broadcast later on ETTV showed the truck driving toward two Taiwan Independence Union members, who were standing by their cars arguing with protesters standing in front of the memorial hall across the street.
PHOTO: SAM YEH, AFP
The video showed the driver of the truck -- later identified as Peng Sheng-lu (
Several reporters were hit by the vehicle, witnesses said, with Wang getting stuck underneath and dragged for several meters until Peng was finally stopped by police officers.
Police officers dragged Peng out of the truck and arrested him.
Wang was rushed to National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital where his condition was described as critical but stable.
At press time Wang was still in the hospital's intensive care unit. Hospital staff said Wang is suffering from broken ribs, hemothorax, fluid on the brain, a broken pelvic bone and liver lacerations.
Five other individuals -- including reporters from SETTV, FTV and the Chinese-language China Times, and a policeman -- were also taken to the hospital suffering from less serious injuries.
Late yesterday, police said they believed Peng did not run over the reporters intentionally, but still charged him with attempted murder before transferring him to the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office for further questioning.
"We did not find sufficient evidence that he did it on purpose," said Lee Jin-tien (李金田), director of Taipei City Police Department's Zhongzheng First Precinct.
Protesters began to gather early yesterday morning after the Ministry of Education's announcement that it would close off the memorial hall and the surrounding park at 9am yesterday.
The ministry obtained permission to alter the plaques -- one on the entry arch bearing the inscription dazhong zhizheng (大中至正), and the other, which read "Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall" above the entrance of the memorial hall itself -- after Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) approved an amendment to the Measures for Designation and Abolishment of Historical Sites (古蹟指定及廢止審查辦法) proposed by the Council of Cultural Affairs.
The decision has triggered strong protests from pan-blue politicians and their supporters.
"This [hall] was constructed to commemorate Chiang Kai-shek [蔣介石], whose contribution to Taiwan was greater than the damage he did," Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰), a protester and leader of last year's anti-Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) movement told a group of around 30 people. "Chen cannot just tear down a historic building like this."
"Chen Shui-bian is a corrupt, shameless person! Dear Leader Chiang [
Minor physical clashes broke out when a Taipei City Department of Labor official showed up to inspect the site.
Some protesters pushed, chased and hit him, but apologized and left after they discovered he was sent by the city government.
More than 300 police officers -- mostly special police forces dispatched by the National Police Agency -- eventually managed to close the memorial hall at around 4pm.
"We've started to change the inscription on the `Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall' plaque, but it will not likely be completed today," ministry Chief Secretary Chuang Kuo-jung (
"[Taipei] City labor inspectors discovered three potential safety risks at the site that need to be addressed -- one within seven days and two today -- but said we could continue with the work," Chuang said.
Chuang added that the labor law stipulates that "construction work at elevated locations can only proceed during the day."
Meanwhile, the president yesterday asked the judiciary to look into the truck incident.
Presidential Office Spokesman David Lee (
Lee said Chen was gravely concerned about the reporter's condition and condemned the violence.
In his weekly e-newsletter, Chen criticized opponents of the administration's plan to alter the plaque at the hall for trying to protect the late dictator, the party-state institution and the greater China ideology that Chiang represents rather than protecting a historical site.
"What is at issue is not whether the name of the hall should be changed or the inscription should be replaced. It is a question of whether we want to continue to treat a dictator and a warlord who trampled on human rights as a god or a feudal king and worship him," Chen said.
Commenting on the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) accusation that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was using the issue to create ethnic tension, Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓), director of the DPP's Culture and Information Department, said that only those who could honestly face history could win clemency from their victims.
"Forgiving does not mean forgetting," she said. "The KMT would rather worship a dictator than admit the mistakes it made while in power. It will only deepen the hatred."
The Broadcasting Development Fund also issued a statement denouncing violence and urged the public to respect journalists' right to work. They also urged journalists covering the event to exercise caution.
Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) defended the plaque change as necessary to uphold democratic values.
"Freedom and democracy are universal values, and Taiwan has strived in past decades to achieve this end," Tu told reporters.
"I think a few people who are stubbornly upholding feudalism should wake up," he said.
Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (
Sheih said the move was "justifiable" both legally and politically.
The ministry has the right to dismantle the plaque as it has jurisdiction over the hall, Shieh said.
He said that altering the plaque was an "urgent" matter, adding that it was regrettable some KMT lawmakers linked the matter with "ethnic issues."
Shieh represented the government in visiting the injured reporters in hospital.
"We feel sad, angry and regretful over the incident. We strongly condemn this type of behavior and will punish anyone who resorts to violence," Sheih said.
The DPP legislative caucus voiced similar sentiments.
"Some people, including Hau, the city government's Bureau of Cultural Affairs Director Lee Yung-ping [
Wang said that the Council of Cultural Affairs had listed the hall as a national monument. That meant the hall now belongs to the central government and the city government had no jurisdiction over it, he said.
"They should know this. I have no idea why they are behaving like this as they know it will be in vain," Wang said.
Meanwhile, the KMT caucus criticized the ministry, saying that barricading the hall was comparable to imposing martial law.
At a press conference, KMT caucus whip Kuo Su-chun (
"The DPP has taken extreme measures in an attempt to win the election. It knew that any attempt to alter the plaque would meet with opposition," Kuo said.
KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (
When approached for comment in Tainan, KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (
Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang, Shih Hsiu-chuan and AFP
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