Although the Assembly and Parade Law (
No significant amendments have been made to the law since it was enacted in 1988. Minor revisions were made in 2002 that did not change the basic nature of the law, which the activists said suppresses the right to demonstrate rather than protecting freedom of assembly and speech.
When Shih Ming-teh (
Prosecutors said that the protests -- aimed at forcing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to resign over a spate of corruption scandals surrounding the first family -- were held without permission from the police. Prosecutors also said that 16 protesters did not disband when ordered to do so by police.
The main criticisms against the law concern the requirement that demonstrators apply for a permit and the power granted to police to disperse demonstrators in the name of maintaining public order.
Wei Pei-hsuan (
"It should be the public, not the police, that has absolute discretion to decide in such matters. First of all, freedom of assembly and association is a right protected in the Constitution. Secondly, the setting of the time and place is key in deciding the success or failure of a protest," Wei said.
Lin Feng-jeng (
Now that the nation is a successful democracy, society views protests as common and acceptable, Lin said, but it is "frustrating" that the KMT and DPP have not shown interest in amending an "outdated" law.
"The law is lagging far behind advances in society's perception of demonstrations. It's hard to believe that the DPP has turned into a conservative party in this regard," Lin said.
Since the DPP came to power in 2000, only once has the government proposed an amendment to the law, in which it suggested repealing the article stipulating that people cannot make communist or seperatist statements at demonstrations.
The amendment, which followed a ruling that the article was unconstitutional, cleared the legislature without objections, but lawmakers across party lines took the opportunity to amend the law to incorporate stricter regulations into other articles.
Under the amendment, the official residences of the president and vice president, foreign embassies, the official residences of ambassadors and offices of international institutions were designated as off limits for demonstrations.
In addition to the 16 participants in last October's demonstrations who stand charged, many protesters campaigning for education, labor and environmental reforms have been charged with violating the law.