Sun, Aug 04, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Activists slam Ma over ‘social turmoil’

POLITICAL PROBLEMS:Activists said events such as the Dapu demolitions and the death of army corporal Hung emphasized the sorry state of Taiwan’s human rights

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Human rights activists yesterday accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of causing social turmoil by enacting policies that violate human rights and demanded reforms to better protect civil rights.

“We are here today to talk about four events that are closely related to the condition of human rights in the nation — including rights in the military. These are: the forcible demolition of private homes in Dapu Borough (大埔), Miaoli County; the controversy surrounding the cross-strait service trade pact; the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘); and the referendum on whether construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) should be completed,” Taiwan Society chairman Chang Yen-hsien (張炎憲) said at a conference in Taipei.

He said the four events show that there is still room for improvement in the protection of people’s basic rights to life, survival, property and participation in policymaking.

Shih Hsin-min (施信民), founding chairman of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union agreed.

“The current Referendum Act [公民投票法] is more a law that prevents the public from participating in decisionmaking through referendums than protecting the right to do so,” Shih said. “To stop the construction of the nuclear power plant, at least 50 percent of the people who voted in the last presidential election — which is more than 9 million — must cast a vote and half of those votes — more than 4.5 million — must support the proposal.”

“President Ma was re-elected last year with 6.89 million votes, but if 8 million people voted in the referendum and 100 percent of them are against construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the referendum result is still deemed invalid,” Shih said.

Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮), a Land Economics professor at National Chengchi University, said that recent government-initiated development projects have met with fervent opposition because the government has abused its power to expropriate land.

“In most of these cases, we don’t see the necessity for the land to be taken in the first place, and in addition, there is no appropriate compensation for landowners. Moreover, we found that in many of these cases, the government uses land expropriation as a way to increase tax revenues or to fill financial loopholes,” Hsu said. “These acts make the government a ‘legal’ thief.”

Wellington Koo (顧立雄), chairman of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and a lawyer representing Hung’s family, urged the government to “open up” the military.

“Servicemen are supposed to follow orders, but that does not mean they are stripped of the fundamental rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution,” Koo said. “The military should open up, treat soldiers with respect and stop trying to hide its problems.”

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