Peter Wang (王獻極), the convener of the 908 Taiwan Republic Campaign, did not violate the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) by throwing a shoe at President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the Taipei District Court ruled yesterday.
The 73-year-old Wang was indicted by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on a charge related to the act after throwing a shoe at Ma as the president delivered a speech at the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park in New Taipei City on Dec. 10, 2012.
According to the ruling, Wang argued that hurling a shoe at the president is an act protected under the right to freedom of speech. The court found that since Ma’s speech was not interrupted by the flying shoe and Wang did not do anything else to disrupt the event, he had not broken the law.
Prosecutors can appeal to the Taiwan High Court.
In a similar case, Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan convener Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴) and seven others were yesterday indicted by the Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office for allegedly pulling down a statue of Republic of China (ROC) founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) in Greater Tainan’s Tang Te-chang Memorial Park on Feb. 22.
The eight were charged with destruction, abandonment and damage of property for allegedly writing “ROC Out” and “KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party] Down” on the statue, tying a rope around the figure’s neck and pulling it down.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) denounced the Greater Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office’s use of Article 160 of the Criminal Code to charge Tsay and the others, calling for it and any similar articles to be annulled because they go against freedom of expression.
Article 160 states that any act that defames the national flag, or symbols, or statues commemorating the nation’s founding father, are punishable by detainment, a maximum prison sentence of one year, or a maximum fine of NT$300.
DPP legislators Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) have proposed annulling Articles 160, 140 and 141 of the Criminal Code, along with related articles in other legislation. Their proposals have passed a first reading in the Legislative Yuan and are to be submitted to the corresponding legislative committees for further review.
Chen said that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed to Taiwanese by the Constitution and by two international human rights accords that the nation has ratified,
The actions of the government should be open to criticism by the public, but this is not so, the legislator added, citing the case of former television host Cheng Hung-yi (鄭弘儀) and two guests on his political talk show, Ho Po-wen (何博文) and Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明).
In June 2011, the three were sued by Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻), who accused them of slander, public defamation and defaming government agencies after they criticized Liu over his administration’s seizure in 2010 of a large swath of farmland in the county’s Dapu Borough (大埔) for the Jhunan (竹南) Science Park.
Classifying defamation of government agencies as a crime in the Criminal Code allows the government and public officials to file court cases far too often, which makes the public afraid of speaking against the government, Chen said.
Such a legal article has no place in a democratic country, the DPP lawmaker added, pointing to the US cases of Texas v. Johnson in 1989 and the United States v. Eichman in 1990 to back his claim.