Mon, Nov 17, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Assembly law should be changed: Ma

GATHERERS Students have demanded that amendments be made so organizers would only need to notify the police of planned rallies, rather than having to apply for permits

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that he was in favor of amending the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法), but added that it was up to the legislature to decide whether to do so.

“I support amending the law so that [people] only need to register with relevant authorities before conducting street gatherings and protests, “ Ma said. “The purpose of this is so that the police can prepare to ensure safety.”

Ma said he had been backing the legal revisions since he was Taipei mayor and hadn’t changed his mind since taking office, adding that he was willing to listen to other voices.

Ma made the remarks while addressing the annual meeting of the Law Society of the Republic of China at the Judicial Yuan yesterday morning.

The comments came as the Wild Strawberry Movement student sit-ins entered their 11th day.

Groups of students have been staging the sit-in nationwide to protest against what they have called the use of excessive force by police to disperse demonstrators who protested against a recent visit by a Chinese envoy.

The students have made three demands: that Ma and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) apologize over the police actions; that National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) and National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Chao-ming (蔡朝明) step down; and that the Assembly and Parade Law be amended.

The students and other critics of the government have pressed Ma to fulfill a promise he made during his presidential election campaign to revise the controversial statute, a commitment Ma said remained unchanged.

Ma has dodged the demand that he and Liu apologize. He has also turned down the demand that Wang and Tsai be replaced, although he said there was room for improvement in their performance in handling the demonstrations.

While the current law requires rally organizers to apply for permits from the police, the students demanded that organizers of such gatherings should only be required to notify police in advance.

Ma yesterday said he was willing to listen to the students’ opinions, but that they must recognize the fact that their opinion represented only one of many different views in Taiwan. He also said that the current system was actually very loose because almost all applications for public rallies were approved if there was no specific reason to reject them.

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