Wed, Nov 22, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Premier casts doubt on caning proposal

PUBLIC DISCUSSION:Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang is to hold a hearing on the petition to assess the effectiveness of flogging and possible human rights violations

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Premier William Lai speaks at an awards ceremony for outstanding agricultural production and marketing in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

Following an online petition urging the government to punish drunk drivers, sex offenders and child abusers by caning, Premier William Lai (賴清德) yesterday said that Taiwanese society would have reservations about the potential human rights violations.

The petition, submitted to a government-funded policy discussion platform on Oct. 23, calls for the government to impose flogging as an additional punishment for drunk driving, sex offenses and violence against children.

With the petition being endorsed by 26,771 netizens, far exceeding the 5,000-signature threshold that requires an official reply from the government, Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) is to preside over a public hearing to discuss the proposal on Dec. 1.

Although current sentiment might favor “a strict penal code in a time of turbulence,” Taiwan is a democratic and law-abiding nation where human rights are valued, Lai said, calling for a more in-depth discussion of the issue.

“A majority of the population will likely have reservations about adopting caning like in Singapore,” Lai said, without revealing his position on the issue.

Tang said the hearing would provide an opportunity to discuss the effectiveness of flogging as a punishment and the possible human rights violations it would entail, as well as its appropriateness for Taiwanese society and alternative methods to prevent crime.

No policy would be formed during the discussion, Tang added.

Asked whether the government should reject the proposal outright instead of convening a hearing over a proposal that apparently runs counter to international human rights covenants, she said that the government should not reject a petition simply because of its provocativeness.

“The person who submitted the petition said he proposed flogging because he believes the Criminal Code is ineffective in preventing those crimes and he hopes to raise public awareness about them, but he is not adamant about flogging,” Tang said.

Many petitions submitted on the platform have proposed seemingly difficult solutions to social situations that would require government efforts, and the government should understand the purpose of such petitions, if not the proposed solutions, she said.

Tang refused to express her stance on the issue, saying that she has to remain neutral as a government official and that her duty is to collect public opinion and possible solutions to facilitate the government’s decisionmaking.

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