The Assembly and Parade Assembly Law (集會遊行法) limits freedom of expression for minority groups and should be abolished. That was the view of civic groups who were supporting two activists indicted for violating the law by demonstrating outside the Taiwan High Court yesterday.
“The Assembly and Parade Law was adopted after martial law was lifted as a tool for the government to limit freedom of expression,” Huang Chia-ping (黃佳平), a spokesman for the Alliance Against the Parade and Assembly Law, told representatives of several civic groups gathered outside the court building.
They were there supporting National Cheng-kung University Taiwanese literature professor Chung Hsiu-mei (鍾秀梅) and National Taiwan University student Pan Hsin-jung (潘欣榮). Chung and Pan were indicted for violation of the law because a demonstration they led in front of the Ministry of Education against the privatization of the education sector and increases in the cost of tuition two years ago exceeded the approved time.
The two were originally declared innocent by the Taipei District Court, but prosecutors chose to appeal. The Taiwan High Court upheld the innocent verdict yesterday.
“Minority non-governmental organizations are unable to get their voices heard through the mainstream media, taking our message to the street is an important way for us to get it across to the public,” Huang said.
While the police are supposed to remain neutral and simply maintain order during demonstrations, “they often serve as a tool for the state to repress minority groups,” Huang said.
“We wanted to speak out, but the state, through the Assembly and Parade Law, wants us to shut up,” Pan said after walking out of the court building a free man.
“There are many other laws that could regulate assemblies and parades,” said Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, who also supports abolishing the Assembly and Parade Law. “The Road Traffic Management and Punishment Law [道路交通管理處罰條例] and the Social Order Law [社會秩序維護法] could be used — just to name just two.”