Fri, Aug 18, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Shih's protest gets the go-ahead from Ma

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei City Government yesterday granted organizers of an anti-President Chen-Shui-bian (陳水扁) rally permission to stage an around-the-clock sit-in protest from Aug. 23 to Sept. 7 on Ketagalan Boulevard.

The approval of the protest, launched by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) last week to oust Chen, came amid concern from the pan-blue camp that Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who also serves as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, would struggle to find a balanced approach between supporting the rally as the opposition leader and maintaining order in his capacity as Taipei mayor if protesters violate the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法).

Ma yesterday denied the city government had given Shih special treatment by relaxing restrictions on the protest deadline of 10pm, stressing that the Assembly and Parade Law does not stipulate any protest deadline.

"The deadline is set by the police to ensure quality of life for local residents ... The rights to assembly and parade are protected by the Constitution, and the city government is responsible for protecting the protesters if the rally is approved," Ma said.

He added that the city government will provide services to the protesters such as traffic information and restrooms.

Asked if he would ask for leave or even resign his post as Taipei mayor to attend the sit-in, Ma said "there was no need" for him to quit since the rally was being held legally and it would be unnecessary for the city government to disperse the crowd.

According to director of the Bureau of Public Works' new construction department, Lee Shu-chuan (李四川), Shih's campaign spokeswoman Ho De-fen (賀德芬) applied for permission yesterday along with an affidavit pledging to maintain peace and order as the rally continues through the night.

The around-the-clock protest will end at 10pm on Sept. 7 and resume on Sept. 11.

The organizer will also need to apply for parade permits from Taipei City Police Department, which said it will probably grant the them.

"But we will disperse the crowd if the protesters violate the affidavit," Lee added.

Lee said the department would only grant half of the boulevard's road space to the campaign during the week, but it will open all the lanes for the protesters during the weekend.

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