Taipei City councilors across party lines yesterday lambasted President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for what they said was making a “fuss” over a truck crash at the Presidential Office last month by planning to seal off Ketagalan Boulevard at night, urging him not to “revert to the Martial Law era.”
The Taipei City Police Department has been closing off all three of the boulevard’s northbound left-turn lanes between Huaining Street and Chongqing S Road every day between 11pm and 6am following an incident on Jan. 25, when Chang Te-cheng (張德正) allegedly rammed a 35-tonne truck into the Presidential Office building’s front entrance.
In an effort to step up security in the area, the Presidential Office is considering making the traffic control measure permanent and expanding the control area.
The office reportedly plans to close off the three northbound left-turn lanes at 10pm every night before sealing off the remaining seven lanes at midnight. The entire boulevard would be shut down until 6am.
Taipei City Police Department spokesman Cheng Ching-hsiang (程景祥) said yesterday that the proposal had not yet been finalized, as the Presidential Office was still working out the details with relevant government agencies.
Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said the proposal was aimed at protecting the safety of the building, the president and the vice president and would have only a limited impact on road users.
However, the plan has caused upset among Taipei City councilors.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) said Ketagalan Boulevard held great symbolic significance for the nation’s democratization movement, as it was the location of numerous protests and rallies.
“It is absurd that the government is willing to impose a curfew on the boulevard for a president who is as timid as a mouse … and needs to be protected like a three-year-old boy,” Wang said, adding that he would ram his car into the Presidential Office if the plan was implemented.
DPP Taipei City Councilor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) said that closing off the boulevard would be a huge leap backward for Taiwan’s democratic development and a step toward a return to totalitarianism.
“Does the Presidential Office have any data or supporting information to justify the need for such a large-scale road closure? I used to think only an authoritarian regime would shut down roads because of a single incident… Is Taiwan being plagued by terrorists or suicide bombers?” Yen said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Chen Li-hui (陳孋輝) said although the president’s safety mattered dearly, sealing off the boulevard because of a single person who was not even an assassin would run counter to the principle of proportionality.
“Besides, Ketagalan Boulevard is a democratic ‘sacred space’ and no one should be allowed to close it off at will,” Chen said.
KMT Taipei City Councilor Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠) said the road-closure plan was too complex and could be another cause of public discontent.
Tung Chien-yi (董建一), founder of the Republic of China Motorcycle Party, said motorcycles were banned from Ketagalan Boulevard and Chongqing S Road during the Martial Law era and were only allowed onto the two roads thanks to motorcyclists’ advocacy efforts.
“It makes absolutely no sense for the government to close off the roads again because of a random attack. Does the right to use public roads mean nothing to the government?” Tung said.