Tue, Nov 11, 2008 - Page 1 News List

DPP proposes parade law amendment

STUDENT PROTESTS The DPP hopes to abolish the legal requirement demanding that rally organizers seek government approval before staging demonstrations

By Rich Chang, Flora Wang And Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Assembly and Parade Law, which took effect under the KMT administration in 1988, has come under fire from several rights groups over the years as an instrument used by the government to control the public and curb freedom of expression.

The premier said yesterday that the government’s stance on amending the law was in line with that of the student protesters.

When asked for comment, Liu said he would urge the KMT caucus to hold public hearings on how to amend the law, adding that he hoped the demonstrators would also send representatives to attend the hearings.

Liu said the KMT had initiated proposals to amend the law to a report-based system.

Nevertheless, he urged the students to end their demonstration and return to school.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城) called on the demonstrators to express their viewpoints “legally.”

Hsu Jen-shou (許仁碩), spokesman for the students at Liberty Square, said the government should communicate directly with the students and that they would hold meetings to jointly decide whether they would accept the government’s suggestion and end the sit-ins.

Chanting “the Assembly and Parade Law is unconstitutional and we are being deprived of our human rights” simultaneously at noon, the students in Taipei, Hsinchu, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung continued their campaign amid rain, cold weather and sporadic protests from people opposing the sit-ins.

One woman brought a megaphone with her to Liberty Square and accused the students of “twisting the meaning of freedom.”

“Kids, you should condemn corruption instead,” she said. “Shouldn’t those who launched the rally and instigated the demonstrations apologize?”

Meanwhile, the KMT caucus said it was worth discussing whether the time was right to amend the law.

KMT caucus secretary-general Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) told a press conference that although he sympathized with the student protesters, they should be demonstrating against the DPP.

The DPP had blocked the KMT’s proposals to amend the law 10 times during the sixth legislative session, Chang said.

KMT Legislator Tsao Erh-chang (曹爾忠), a former police officer, said he hoped that reasonable regulations for rallies could be established.

“The objective of amending the law is to help maintain peace in society,” Tsao said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) declined to comment when asked whether any caucus had boycotted amendments to the law in the previous legislature, saying only that lawmakers could initiate their own proposals if they saw the need to amend the law.

Wang said it was important that the public should reach a consensus on the matter, because some people were concerned that protests could get out of hand if all people had to do was notify the police if they were planning a protest.

The Presidential Office said that although Ma was in favor of amending the law, it was important the public reach a consensus on the issue.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the administration supported revising the law, because it had been one of Ma’s election promises.

A Presidential Office official who asked to remain anonymous said that the law had already been amended to bring it in line with the Constitution.

“It is wrong to say that the law is unconstitutional,” he said. “The police may turn down some applications, but that hardly ever happens.

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