Dozens of protesters against the forcible demolition of houses in Miaoli County’s Dapu Borough (大埔) were able to get close enough to the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday to throw eggs and paint at the building after they disguised themselves as Chinese tourists.
Carrying bags from souvenir and specialty shops and following a “tour guide” waving a small hand-held flag, the group of more than 30 protesters did not arouse much attention as they walked from the Sheraton Hotel Taipei across the street to the Executive Yuan.
However, as the group neared the front gate of the Executive Yuan, they suddenly began sprinting toward the building’s front door.
Shouting: “The government tore down Dapu, and the people will tear down the government,” the protesters tossed eggs and paint at the building.
Taken by surprise, the police officers at the front gate managed to grab only two of the protesters as they entered the compound.
Those that made it inside the gate, after throwing the eggs and paint, sat down and continued chanting, calling on the government to return the land it has expropriated from people and to amend the law to ban forced expropriation.
Not long after the sit-in began, police officers moved into to remove the protesters, but not before asking reporters and photographers on the scene to leave.
When Public Television Service reporter Edd Jhong (鐘聖雄) insisted that it was his right as a reporter to be at a news scene, he was grabbed by police officers.
“They originally were going to throw me out of the Executive Yuan, but I kept struggling, so they gave up,” Jhong said. “A public relations official from the Executive Yuan came out and said she could stay with us [the media]. She asked the police to leave us alone, but a plainclothes officer challenged her, asking if she would take full responsibility for the decision.”
“This was clearly an effort to repress the freedom of the press,” Jhong said.
When asked about the protest later in the day, Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) appealed for calm.
It is normal in a democracy for people to voice their opinions and fight for their rights, but they should do so in a rational and legal manner, she said.
Cheng said the Executive Yuan has told police officers in the district to increase their patrols.
However, it told them that police officers should uphold the rule of law when carrying out their duties and urged government agencies and officials at all levels to increase their communications with the public in cases where the public’s interests are affected, Cheng said.
The protest did not disturb the Cabinet meeting that was taking place inside the building at the time, nor was it discussed at the meeting, Cheng said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan