The measures employed by police to ensure the safety of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) have drawn criticism from several lawyers and nongovernmental organizations that question whether the police were acting within the bounds of the law and the Constitution.
Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠), secretary-general of the Taipei Bar Association, said that when dispersing protesters or trying to prevent clashes, police should make sure that their actions reflect the circumstances. Otherwise, they infringe on the freedoms of association and expression guaranteed under the Constitution.
“Some actions taken by the police [on Monday and yesterday] clearly went beyond constitutional parameters,” Kao said.
Kao suggested that people use cameras or cellphones to record stop and search actions by police outside the security zone.
If people feel that the police are acting beyond their powers, they should lodge a judicial complaint, he said.
Kao said the Constitution guaranteed freedom of association, and that police had to act according to the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法), the purpose of which is to ensure the freedom of association, not restrict it.
Several legal observers also questioned why police forcibly removed people carrying Republic of China flags, as holding or waving the national flag is not forbidden by the Social Order Maintenance Law (社會秩序維護法).
Only if flagpoles are seen as weapons or if flags are used to attack other people may the police take action against them, the observers said. After police on Monday forcibly kept people holding balloons from coming close to the conference venue or police exclusion lines, legal observers said that balloons could not be forbidden unless they have dangerous items attached to them or pose some other kind of real threat.
Yao Sea-yun (姚思遠), dean of the College of Law at Chinese Culture University, said that although freedom of speech is not absolute, the government should take an approach of maximum tolerance and not impose excessive restrictions.
The executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation, Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正), said that the biggest difference between Taiwan and China is that one is democratic and the other autocratic.
“It was reasonable to set up an exclusion zone to ensure Chen’s safety, but beyond that people should be allowed to express dissenting views,” he said.
Lin urged victims of police violence to file lawsuits, and asked them to call the Taiwan Association for Human Rights hotline at (02) 2363-9798 or fax to (02) 2363-6102 for legal assistance.
At a separate setting yesterday, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) criticized the measures taken to protect Chen Yunlin.
“President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) talked about an equal footing and dignity, but I don’t know what he meant — the five-starred [Chinese] flag can be displayed at will, but the Taiwanese flag has to be taken away,” he said. “Seven thousand to 9,000 policemen have been deployed. This is something that was not even seen at the presidential inauguration ceremony four years ago, when there were presidents from 15 countries.”
The Mainland Affairs Council dismissed allegations that the government had adopted overly drastic measures to muffle protesters. It added that the government did not order the Grand Hotel or neighboring buildings to put away national flags. Police and security personnel were just doing their job to protect visiting guests, it said.