The Wild Strawberry Student Movement marked its one-month anniversary in Taipei yesterday with a rally featuring a mock funeral for the nation’s human rights, attracting several thousand participants of all ages.
The demonstrators, who only reported their planned event to the police instead of seeking approval from law enforcement authorities as required by the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法), peacefully marched to the Legislative Yuan, the Control Yuan, the Executive Yuan, the National Police Agency (NPA) and Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.
The 2.7km march began at 2pm, with student protesters from around Taiwan and a number of non-governmental organization members dressed in black marching down Zhongshan S Road with a banner that read “peaceful, rational and maintaining order [even though we only] reported [the rally].”
An estimated 4,000 people joined the protest, event organizers said. Students wore Qing dynasty emperor’s and officials’ costumes with pictures of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), NPA Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) and National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Chao-ming (蔡朝明).
A couple brought their son and daughter to the parade, carrying a symbolic reaping-hook and dragging several dolls colored in red on the ground, a move they said symbolized the death of the nation’s human rights.
As the rally participants proceeded with their demonstration, they were stopped by a small number of police officers near National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, the legislature and Ketagalan Boulevard, but the police officers only issued warnings and did not block them.
The officers left the scene as rally participants and supporters applauded the officers for carrying out their police duty instead of clashing with them.
The event was highlighted with a mock funeral for human rights in the middle of the boulevard — about 250m away from the Presidential Office — with four students dressed in black suits carrying a coffin symbolizing human rights and covering it with a national flag, as the event organizers played the national anthem in the background.
The protesters returned to Liberty Square at the hall after the “funeral.” No conflicts took place throughout the rally.
The students had staged nationwide silent sit-ins since Nov. 6 to protest what they called excessive police force during a visit by Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) early last month.
The students have called for an immediate amendment to the assembly law and for Ma and Liu to apologize and Wang and Tsai to resign.
The Executive Yuan on Thursday responded to the students’ appeals by approving a proposed amendment to the assembly law that scrapped the police’s authority to approve or disapprove a rally application.
Many of the student protesters questioned the government’s sincerity in amending the law, saying that there was nothing different between the proposed amendment and the current law because organizers would still be required to register their activities five days in advance.
The students criticized the government’s proposal for three situations in which police would be empowered to inform organizers within 36 hours of registration that their plans were not acceptable.
The three situations were: if the event would jeopardize national security, social order or the public interest; if it would endanger lives, freedom or property; or when an event taking place close to another could cause problems.