Tue, Nov 11, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Interior, NPA chiefs grilled over police acts

COMPLAINTS Both DPP and KMT lawmakers were unhappy with last week’s protests, with the DPP calling security measures excessive and repressive

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

People join the student demonstration at Liberty Square in front of the National Democracy Hall Memorial in Taipei yesterday. A sit-in strike area was set up to encourage the public to participate in the protest calling for an amendment to the Parade and Assembly Law and demanding the government apologize for heavy-handed policing during a visit to Taipei last week by Chinese envoys.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Under fire from both the opposition and the governing parties over security measures during Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit, Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) and National Police Agency (NPA) Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) insisted at the legislature yesterday that the police had done nothing wrong.

Liao told the Internal Administration Committee that thousands of police officers had been mobilized to secure Chen’s safety and to keep anti-China protesters in check from last Monday to last Friday.

An NPA official said 5,000 officers had been called up from across the country.

Lawmakers from across party lines, however, criticized the security operation, codenamed “Operation Concord.”

“The overly heavy security measures made it seem like we had returned to 30 years ago when the country was under martial law,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如) said.

“Why did police officers grab the national flag from people’s hands when they tried to show Chen [Yunlin] that we’re a sovereign country?” he asked.

“Are we not allowed to display our own flag on our own territory?” Chen Chieh-hu asked.

Liao and Wang denied police had deliberately confiscated Republic of China (ROC) flags.

“It had nothing to do with the flag — it had more to do with whether the people were standing in a restricted area or what they were trying to do,” Wang said.

Opposition lawmakers were not convinced.

DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) showed a video clip in which police officers grabbed a ROC flag from a group of protesters standing on a freeway overpass as Chen Yunlin’s convoy approached and apparently bent the flagpole in half. Chiu asked Wang to explain what happened.

“The officer was worried that the protesters might have planned to throw the flagpole at Chen’s convoy when it passed. The flagpole, which was made of plastic, was already broken when the protesters clashed with the officer,” Wang said. “So he did nothing wrong.”

Chiu cited several other incidents where she said the police had acted illegally, including stopping or pushing people wearing T-shirts with the word “Taiwanese” on them, halting the distribution of small ROC flags, and stopping people who were waving Tibetan and ROC flags while walking past a building where the ARATS chief was staying.

“The Police Duties Enforcement Law [警察職權行使法] stipulates that when executing an order, police officers should take the measure that causes the least damage to people’s legal rights,” Chiu said. “And the officers are supposed to clearly state the legal basis of their action.”

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Wu (吳志揚) also questioned police actions.

“I think the main objective of your mission was to keep Chen and the delegation safe,” Wu said. “You should not have compromised on his personal safety, but you should not have taken overly restrictive measures on non-security related issues.”

“We just wanted to try to reduce tension — we tried very hard,” Liao said.

But when asked by DPP lawmakers to apologize to the public for the police actions, Liao refused.

However, “there was always room for improvement,” he said.

Wang also rejected a call by KMT Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) to investigate reports that a police district director’s wife took part in the protests.

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