Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday expressed strong support for Taipei’s Zhongzheng First Police Precinct Chief Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧), who faced calls to step down over a ruling that has restricted people’s right to assemble, saying that he would not approve Fang’s verbally offered resignation.
Hau called the protest involving more than 1,000 people outside Fang’s precinct headquarters in downtown on Friday night illegal, saying the city government will not tolerate attacks on government buildings in the future.
As Taipei residents’ tolerance of illegal rallies has reached its limits, so has the strength of the police who have dealt with several rallies and protests recently, Hau said.
The crowd, unhappy with the forced dispersal of protesters outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei early Friday morning, attempted to besiege the Zhongzheng First Police Precinct that evening, sparking a tense standoff and sporadic clashes with officers for about five hours until midnight.
The protesters cited three reasons in demanding that Fang apologize and step down: They said he had reneged on his pledge to refrain from forcibly removing protesters from the square outside the Legislative Yuan, that he unilaterally withdrew the one-month permission granted to the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan on March 19 to use the road as an assembly location, and said he would never grant the group a permit for a rally.
Protesters shouted: “Fang Yang-ning you are a liar” and “Fang Yang-ning step down,” while holding posters reading “state violence” and “unconstitutional.”
Photo: Wen Yu-teh, Taipei Times
Despite a promise from Fang at 2:30am Friday that the police would not forcibly clear the area, police began picking up members of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan and moving them away from the area at 7am.
Protestors asked that Fang meet them to explain his actions.
As the number of protesters grew, hundreds of police officers were deployed to the front gate of the precinct building and riot police were placed on standby.
Some of the protesters scattered ghost money, normally seen as currency for the dead, around the precinct doors.
The standoff lasted until Fang appeared to speak to the public for the third time and said that he had offered a verbal resignation.
“If I had done anything wrong during the morning’s eviction action, I apologized sincerely. The police would grant Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan’s rally permit with leniency and I have offered my resignation to my superiors,” Fang said.
After Fang’s response, the protesters scattered slowly near midnight, but some moved to the Legislative Yuan compound and sat in front of the main entrance. About 30 stayed overnight.
Hau yesterday morning visited the police precinct to give his full backing to Fang.
He said that although the protesters caused major disturbances in the area surrounding the police headquarters, Fang’s decision to stay calm and ultimately allow protesters to disperse slowly was “commendable” and “praiseworthy.”
During the past 24 days of the student-led occupation of the legislative chamber and surrounding areas, Fang had “acted with determination” and “dealt humbly with the student movement,” Hau said.
The eviction on Friday morning was a legal and a “soft eviction,” and there was nothing inappropriate during the action, Hau said.
Hau said that although Fang offered to resign to pacify the public, he will not approve the move because “we could never give in to people who use a method of public trial to force a government official to step down,” Hau said.
He said Friday night’s offenders will be punished in accordance with the law, based on evidence gathered at the police station.
“I hoped that the people could support the police — who carry out their duties by law. We would never tolerate any assault on police precincts or government offices,” he said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people dressed in white went to the precinct yesterday afternoon to present flowers to Fang, clashing with Sunflower movement supporters.
Messages of support and sympathy for Taipei’s police force have poured in, with a Facebook page set up to back the police collecting over 180,000 “likes” in hours.
A message on the Facebook page asked supporters to say “thank you” to police officers, saying that many had come under stress recently.
In addition to the Facebook attention, flowers were sent to the precinct headquarters yesterday morning by citizens and officials.
Responding to reporters’ questions, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that he “absolutely supports” police actions made in accordance with the law.
Fang’s wife, Chiu Tzu-chen (邱子珍), head of the Women’s and Children’s Protection Division at Taipei City Police Department, said that her husband just followed orders given by his superiors because “we are both civil servants.”
“We will do whatever our superiors want, according to their instructions,” Chiu said.
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