Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Yu defends vote-buying crackdown in Hualien

LEGAL BATTLE The minister of the interior says that sending police forces to Hualien county to control the corruption is neccessary and completely consititutional

By Roger Liu  /  STAFF REPORTER

National Taiwan University professor Ke Yung-kuang, right, speaks at a press conference yesterday, where he said that the 24-hour surprise checks on vote-buying in Hualien may be unconstitutional.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) said yesterday spot checks and raids conducted by reserve police sent to monitor the Hualien by-election are legal and in accordance with the Constitution.

Yu was responding to criticism by Hualien District Chief Prosecutor Yang Ta-chih (楊大智), who said that the minister's dispatch of police to crack down on bribery in the campaign was clearly "unconstitutional."

"Why the hell are they coming here? They know nothing about Hualien," Yang said. "What they do is infringe on the basic human rights of people there. It violates the Constitution."

Yang said that the Police Duties Act (警察勤務條例), which green lights the police presence in Hualien, is poorly drafted, flawed and fails to mention whether the police need probable cause before they conduct raids.

Countering Yang's assault, Yu said, "Setting checkpoints and raids are all part of police duties, with which the police can take preventive actions to curb crimes. The actions should abide by the {Council of] Grand Justices' Consititutional Interpretation No. 535.

"What policemen do there is to prevent violence and bribery in the campaigning process," he added.

"We will ask the police to be very careful when they enforce the act," Yu said.

Yu said it is his responsibility to supervise the situation in Hualien by frequently visiting the county.

"I am the administrator of the nation's police force and I went to Hualien to find out what's going on there. Shouldn't I do that? Shouldn't I?" Yu asked.

"I respect Yang's rights to comment on this," said Yu, "However, the central government just wants to show how determined it is [to curb violence]. Is that wrong?"

Yu denied that the deployment of police has turned Hualien into a "police state."

"You reporters have exaggerated the whole thing," Yu said, "It's impossible for you to see policemen everywhere in Hualien. In fact, we even face a shortage of policemen."

There are only some 1,700 police in Hualien to maintain order for the by-election campaign, Yu said.

In Yunlin County's by-election held four years ago, the central government sent more than 2,000 police there, including the Wei-an Police Special Services Commando Unit (維安特勤隊), the nation's SWAT team, Yu said.

"This time we have only sent some 460 policemen to Hualien, too small in number to disturb the nationwide police allocation," said Hou You-yi (侯友宜), commissioner of the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

"Those forces are designed to deal with sudden violence or incidents. They are ready to be deployed anywhere," he said.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun earlier expressed his support for Yu's order to investigate and crack down on bribery in the election.

It is the "responsibility of the government," said Cabinet spokesman Lin Chia-lung(林佳龍), quoting the premier.

The premier would like to honor and thank those prosecutors, policemen and ministry agents dispatched there and "he asked relative government agencies to do their best in cracking down on bribery with the prerequisite of respecting the Aboriginal culture and basic human rights," Lin said.

Meanwhile, DPP candidate You Ying-long's (游盈隆) campaign office yesterday said that KMT candidate Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) invited the press to attend Yang's conference by sending cellphone messages from a number later proved to be Hsieh's.

You camp blasted Yang for "blurring the line between politics and law."

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