Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Academic calls for dedicated protest zones

RALLY Setting up special demonstration zones would remove the need for people who want to protest to apply for a permit, a professor said

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A university professor yesterday urged government agencies around the country to establish special zones for demonstrations to allow the public to voice demands.

Chen Chwen-wen (陳淳文), a political science professor at National Taiwan University (NTU), told a school forum that with the establishment of such zones, people who wish to protest would only have to complete an on-site registration instead of having to seek approval from law enforcement authorities prior to a demonstration as stipulated in the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法).

Liberty Square in front of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall could also be turned into a “demonstration square,” he said.

Chen said the Assembly and Parade Law's ban on demonstrations at certain locations should also be relaxed.

The law prohibits protests in the immediate vicinity of the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, the Judicial Yuan, the Examination Yuan, courts and the residences of the president and vice president.

Demonstrations are also banned outside international airports, sea ports, important military facilities, foreign consulates and the Taiwan offices of international organizations.

“The biggest difference between us and the People's Republic of China is that we are a democracy and a nation ruled by law,” Chen said.

Chang Wen-chen (張文貞), a law professor at NTU, said legislators and civic groups were “on the right track” in seeking to amend the law.

Chang said many local civic groups had been forced to end their peaceful demonstrations just because they had not or were unable to obtain approval from the authorities.

If the proposed amendment were passed, there would never be another demonstration in Taiwan deemed illegal from the start, she said.

“Anyone can freely assemble and parade without having to obtain approval from the police,” Chang said. “However, demonstrators must also respect other people's freedom and obey the law.”

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