Sat, Jun 09, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Police overreacted to flash mob: Hau

ANTI-NUCLEAR PROTEST:The Taipei mayor said the police should reflect on how to react to flash-mob protests, while tax officials said they were not targeting the protest’s leader

By Mo Yan-chih and Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporters

Members of a group calling itself "I am a person, I oppose nuclear power" gather in front of the Presidential Office in this screen grab taken off the group’s Facebook page yesterday.

Screengrab from the Facebook page of the group "I am a person, I oppose nuclear power"

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said that police abused their authority in handling an anti-nuclear flash-mob protest last month and instructed the city’s police department to be more cautious.

The protest, initiated by theater director Ko I-chen (柯一正), drew 60 activists to Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office on May 28. The police later accused the protesters of violating the Public Safety Act (公共危險罪) and asked Ko to report to the police department on Monday, sparking accusations that the police had mishandled the protest.

Meanwhile, Ko’s son, actor Lawrence Ko (柯宇綸), said on his Facebook page on Thursday that his father’s company was being investigated by the Tax Bureau and commented that the government was being “a shady national apparatus.”

“A flash-mob protest is a way for people to express their opinions, and should be part of freedom of speech. Mayor Hau thinks the police department overreacted and wants the department to give careful consideration to how it handles such protests in the future,” Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said.

Chang declined to discuss the police department’s moves and said the city government had no knowledge about the reported tax investigation.

Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧), director of the police department’s Zhongcheng First Division, said the flash-mob protest was illegal because it did not have a road permit, and the division only asked the organizers to explain the rally.

Police department chief secretary Lin Shun-chia (林順家) said that after thorough consideration, the department decided to cancel the interview with Ko I-chen, but it would still issue a warning to the protest organizers for violating traffic regulations and impacting traffic safety.

The flash-mob protest, titled “I’m a man. I’m anti-nuclear,” attracted many people from the arts, including novelist Lo Yi-chin (駱以軍). The group lay down on Ketagalan Boulevard to form the Chinese character for “person” (人) for 30 seconds, then shouted: “I’m a man, I’m anti-nuclear,” before dispersing.

Although the police have canceled the interview requests for the five leading figures in the protest — including Ko I-chen and Lo — the two are still upset about how the police handled the issue.

Recalling a meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) at a ceremony when Ma paid tribute to another writer who is an -advocate of humanitarianism and human rights, Lo wrote a post on his Facebook page saying he felt quite disappointed at Ma’s government for not standing up for humanitarian values.

“I was never close to social movements,” Lo wrote. “But when even a middle-aged-having-nothing-to-do father like me, as well as many literary figures, are out in the street protesting, maybe it’s time for the government to reflect on whether its policies in a range of areas have departed from the core values of humanitarianism.”

Instead of trying to think what it has done wrong, the government moved to press safety-violation charges on those who took part in the protest, Lo said, adding: “I would feel ashamed for what you have done if I were you.”

Ko I-chen yesterday said charges would not scare him and he would encourage more people to join.

“The action will not stop, I hereby call on more people — especially those in the south — to join us,” he said. “If I have any regrets, I regret that the action [flash protests] are not spreading fast enough.”

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