The Taipei City Council’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday demanded that the city’s police department take all necessary measures to ensure students who have occupied the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber since March 18 have a “safe and unharassed” exit tomorrow.
The caucus issued the demand at a morning press conference, just hours after protest leaders said the students would vacate the chamber at 6pm tomorrow following their unprecedented occupation of the legislature to protest against the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement.
“The caucus has two major demands: that police refrain from forcibly evicting the students before their scheduled exit and that they make an all-out effort to prevent the ‘White Wolf’ and other pro-agreement groups from harassing the students when they leave,” said Taipei City Councilor Liu Yao-jen (劉耀仁), the convener of the DPP caucus.
Liu asked police to not put on their riot gear when they escort the protesters out of the legislature, as a gesture of goodwill.
“Even if President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration issues such an order [for a forced eviction], the city government must flatly reject the request. If not, we will ask [Taipei] Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to take full responsibility for what happens,” Liu said.
“White Wolf” is the nickname of gangster-turned-political party leader Chang An-le (張安樂), who on Tuesday last week led hundreds of supporters of the trade deal in a failed attempt to “take back the legislature for the people.”
DPP Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) said a majority of the public wants to see the students “walk out of the legislature triumphantly and return home safely.”
“There is no room for error in such a critical moment. The police must be on high alert and watch out for anyone who seems to be attempting to provoke the students,” Wang said.
Wang also warned against using force to evict the students, saying that such a move would draw a battle line between the government and the public.
Taipei City Police Department Chief Inspector Chen Ming-cheng (陳銘政) said that the department’s primary duty is to maintain peace and order and that it would “do everything in its power” to help the students make a safe exit.
Chen said riot gear was only used for defensive purposes and the police department planned to continue deploying fully equipped riot police around the legislature’s complex until the students’ scheduled departure.
Meanwhile, Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) urged the “Ma-King-Jiang ring” — referring to Ma, National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) — not to take legal action against the protesters.
“Those in power must exercise self-restraint … because the student movement is a clear indicator of growing people power and proof that the public has decided to speak up for themselves and save their own country,” Huang said.
“While your children rest safely in the US or in Hong Kong, the children of Taiwan are fighting a lone battle against growing threats from China, as well as class conflicts and a widening poverty gap brought about by globalization,” Huang said.