The Taipei High Administrative Court has ruled that a protester who was dragged and beaten by unidentified police officers during demonstrations against Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) in Taipei in 2008 was eligible to receive national compensation after video evidence revealed that he was unarmed and was facing away from police.
In the first compensation decision over the police response to the protests in November 2008, the court said on Wednesday that the Taipei City Government would have to pay Ted Chiang (江一德), a graduate student at National Taiwan University at the time, NT$300,000 in damages and NT$1,680 in medical costs.
The identity of the officers involved in the act was not revealed in the ruling and the officers have yet to be disciplined amid claims of a cover-up after the incident.
In its verdict on the precedent-setting case, the court said police officers failed to intervene after the clubbing, even as Chiang lay on the ground bleeding. The ruling added that the Taipei City Government failed to account for public safety and that there was a lack of police discipline.
Chiang told the Taipei Times yesterday he was satisfied with the ruling, adding that “it was never about the money — it was about principle and concern over the conduct of police.”
Chiang, who now works as a marketing manager, said he joined the demonstration after seeing footage on TV of police confiscating the national flag as part of the crackdown on the protests.
Soon after the attack, Chiang filed a lawsuit against the commanding officer at the scene. After he lost the lawsuit, he applied for national compensation from the Taipei City Government.
While Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said the city government would not appeal, opposition lawmakers said they hoped the case would reinvigorate other cases of alleged police brutality currently in court.
“In the past, the court always sided against the public on these issues,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said. “This time, however, the judge stood up for the public interest and protected our constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”
Chiang’s lawyer, Wong Kuo-yan (翁國彥), said he respected the Taipei City Government’s decision not to appeal, but said city authorities would have to “determine clearly which [police officers] were involved in the incident.”
The scuffle took place late on the night of Nov. 6, 2008, after about 2,000 students and activists surrounded and blockaded the Grand Formosa Regent hotel, where Chen was attending a dinner hosted by then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄).
Hundreds of police in full riot gear later descended on the protesters and escorted the Chinese envoy out of the hotel at about 2am, resulting in clashes with the mostly unarmed crowd. The rally was dispersed shortly thereafter, but not before allegations of police brutality surfaced.
“We were shocked at what took place that night,” Chiang said.
Video footage showed that along with several other white-shirted protesters, Chiang was looking away from the police line before he was dragged underneath riot shields and beaten with a club.
“Just as I was getting up again, a blow smashed into the back of my head. My whole body went limp and it felt like I was getting shocked by a taser,” he said.