Sun, Nov 09, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Students reconvene, protest on

ROUND TWOAlthough demonstrators were evicted on Friday, many returned to continue their sit-in, demanding an apology for how police handled last week’s protests

By Lin Chia-chi  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH STAFF WRITER

A protester winces as rain beats down on him at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei yesterday. Hundreds of college students have taken part in a sit-in protest against heavy-handed policing of recent demonstrations.

PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES

“We want human rights!” chanted students at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall as they continued their sit-in for a third day, demanding an apology from the government over what they called the “rough” tactics used by police to deal with protesters during the visit by China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chaiman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) last week.

Despite the poor weather yesterday, more than 100 students wore simple raincoats and remained sitting in protest in the Taipei rain.

The first two days of the sit-in protest saw hot, humid weather. Yesterday, downpours began at around 10am.

“The first trials of the weather have started, but despite our efforts, no one has stepped up to respond to our demands,” Hsu Ching-fang (許菁芳), president of the National Taiwan University Student Association, said to the crowd of students in the rain.

About 400 students, led by assistant professor of sociology at National Taiwan University Lee Ming-tsung (李明璁), started the sit-in in front of the Executive Yuan on Thursday at noon. The students believe that police, while protecting the safety of Chen and his delegation, acted improperly and that freedom of speech had been suppressed.

The student demonstrators were forcibly evicted by police from the front gate of the Executive Yuan on Friday night because they had not applied to conduct a protest there.

The students linked their arms together and refused to leave. Police had to take them away to nearby police vehicles, and then drove them to National Taiwan University.

Some students later reconvened in Liberty Square at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall to continue the sit-in.

“Police officers have engaged in numerous abusive acts against peaceful protesters from various dissenting groups, under the guise of ‘keeping the peace,’” read an English statement issued by the students. “These acts have included arbitrary searches and prohibitions, seizure and destruction of property, physical assault, dispersion, and even arrest and detention.”

“Through reports in the media, we have come to realize the seriousness of the current situation. It is no longer a technical question of excessive law enforcement tactics, nor is it simply a partisan issue between supporters of various political parties. This is a proliferation of state-sponsored violence that is provoking and attacking civil society. All these oppressive acts, which ignore human rights and democratic values, are reminiscent of martial law,” the statement said.

The students yesterday insisted that they would continue with the sit-in protest until their three appeals were met: an open apology from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) to all citizens, the resignations of National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) and National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chaoming (蔡朝明) and the swift amendment of the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法).

Some observers compared the sit-in to the Wild Lily Student Movement (野百合學運) of 1990, which started as a student movement that eventually drew hundreds of thousands calling for political reforms, including the abolition of the National Assembly.

The protest this time not only brought students from different schools to the sit-in, but also redefined social movements as the students used the Internet to promote their appeal.

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