Three students yesterday were brought to a police station for alleged violations of the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法) after two of them lifted up posters protesting President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policies and the third assisted by passing out flyers at an event that Ma attended.
The incident took place at the opening ceremony of the Asia University-affiliated Asian Museum of Modern Art in Greater Taichung, created by renowned Japanese designer Tadao Ando, where security had been tightened due to multiple incidents in recent days in which the president had shoes thrown at him.
All personal bags that were brought into the ceremony area were searched and no water or containers for liquids were allowed in.
Despite the tight security, two students from the university, surnamed Huang (黃) and Chi (紀), suddenly stood up while Ma was giving a speech and unfolded their posters, one of which read: “Establish clear channels of communication and a public stance on issues,” while the other said: “No to black-box operations, amendments, breach of human rights.”
The students then ran toward the stage while shouting: “No to autocratic government, affirm the people’s efforts,” causing a stir among the crowd.
When they were taken outside by the security teams, Huang and Chi shouted: “We have our rights of freedom of speech.”
At the same time, a third student, surnamed Liu (劉), had been handing out protest flyers outside the auditorium and was also taken to the police station.
Although Ma continued with his speech, the incident, which occurred in front of Ando and 150 Japanese guests, apparently greatly embarrassed him.
Wufeng Precinct police chief Yu Hui-mao (余輝茂) said that because the three protesters had not applied for a permit allowing them to protest in a restricted area in which their actions may have posed a danger to the head of state, they were taken away by security, in line with the Special Service Act (特種勤務條例).
After consulting with prosecutors, the police said the case had been forwarded to the Greater Taichung District Court on charges of violating Article 68 of the Social Order Maintenance Act.
The three female students were released in the company of their lawyers after questioning.
University Academic Affairs director Chang Shao-liang (張少樑) said that while the university respected students’ rights to express their opinions, the timing of such expressions required some more thought.
The museum — which took six years to build — is an important project both for the school and the nation, Chang said, adding that the president’s appearance yesterday was in the capacity of a guest of honor representing the state.
That university students chose to stage a protest against an invited guest during a ceremony is inappropriate and whether the students would be punished by the school is up to its disciplinary committee, Chang said.