The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) protest on May 17 will not turn into a rally for incarcerated former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), a party official said yesterday, making a clear distinction between Chen’s hunger strike and the protest.
Scheduled three days before President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) first anniversary in office, the DPP said the protest was to send a message that “the public is fed up with the government’s incompetence and its failure to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty.”
Chen, who has been detained since Dec. 30 on charges of money laundering and corruption, announced on Thursday that he would go without food and liquid until next Sunday to express his support for the DPP’s demonstration.
DPP youth director Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) told a press conference that party headquarters was grateful for Chen’s support, but hoped that he would prioritize his own health, referring to comments made by Chen’s office that the former president’s health was deteriorating and he was suffering from a heart condition, arthritis, a skin rash and failing vision.
Based on the principles of human rights and impartiality, the court should allow Chen to receive the necessary medical treatment immediately, Chao said.
DPP Secretary-General Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁) said the demonstration aimed to highlight how inept the government has been in safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty and rejuvenating the economy. It is not dedicated to any particular individual, Wu said.
The party is planning to stage a 24-hour sit-in protest following the May 17 rally to protest the government’s amendment to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法), which the DPP says will return the nation to the Martial Law era and turn the nation into a police state if it is passed.
“It is truly regrettable that Chen has faced such inhumane treatment while in prison. Some protesters at the rally might take some drastic action to voice their anger with the judicial system. But the rally and Chen’s hunger strike are mutually exclusive,” DPP caucus whip Lee Chun-yi (李俊毅) said at a separate venue. “The court should allow Chen to receive adequate rest and the appropriate medical care so that he can be fully prepared to fight for his innocence during his trial.”
Executive Yuan spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said that while the government respected the public’s right to freely express opinions, protesters should be aware of the possible consequences of the demonstration for the country after 190,000 Chinese tourists visited Taiwan between January and April bringing in NT$11.6 billion (US$350 million) in tourism revenues.
DPP Department of International Affairs Director Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who is currently accompanying DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on her visit to the US, told Taiwanese press in Washington yesterday that the party was planning to arrange for Chinese tourists to take part in the rally “to experience Taiwan’s democracy.”
The party would coordinate the plan to assure the participating Chinese tourists’ safety during the protest, she said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER