Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 3 News List

National Day Protest: Taipei City broke the law by not enforcing it: analysts

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei City Government's failure to exercise authority and enforce law and order yesterday would have repercussions on the country's democracy, legal professionals said.

"The city government has neglected its duty," Y.C. Kao (高湧誠), executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation, said in a telephone interview with the Taipei Times yesterday.

He was referring to the tens of thousands of slogan-chanting red-clad anti-Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) protesters who took to the streets of Taipei without getting permission for the rally from the Taipei City Government.

Taipei City Police Department Commissioner Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) had said on Monday that the anti-Chen camp's "siege" around the Presidential Office building would be illegal since the campaign organizers had not applied for a permit from the city to hold a parade or rally.

Wang said that the planned parade would violate the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法) and police officers would remove and arrest protesters.

However, Taipei police did not enforce the law because Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) decided not to do so.

"So long as they [the protesters] are not violent and do not break the peace, Taipei City police will handle the situation with flexibility," Ma said yesterday.

The city's decision violated the principle of the rule of law, which would hurt the nation's democracy, Kao said.

"The city government cannot say the people have the right to express their opinions and yet fail to enforce the law," he said.

Kao said he was concerned that the Taipei police department's poor handling of the event would set a bad precedent for other illegal protests.

He said the Taiwan Association of Human Rights and 20 other civic groups, including his foundation, see the Assembly and Parade Law as a bad law.

These groups believe the government has used it as a tool to suppress, rather than protect, the public's liberty -- explaining why they have been pushing for it to be amended.

But until the law is amended, it should be obeyed and enforced, Kao said.

Lin Ching-tsung (林慶宗), a prosecutor with the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office, told the Taipei Times that the city government's decision not to remove protesters in accordance with the law meant that the city was in contempt of the law.

This would not happen in a mature democracy, he said.

According to Lin, the law stipulates that police are able to remove protesters at an illegal rally after officers raise warning signs three times and broadcast an appeal for the protesters to leave.

The Taipei police did not raise signs announcing the assembly was illegal, which then made it impossible for them to formally ask the protesters to leave.

Lin said the police's "soft approach" broke the law and would have a negative impact on future policing of rallies and protests.

The law gives the police the power to permit or deny applications for assembly, restrict protesters' activities, maintain order and dismiss assemblies.

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