Tue, Apr 28, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Activists pan changes to Assembly and Parade Act

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of civic groups address a press conference at the legislature in Taipei yesterday, calling on lawmakers not to pass an amendment to the Assembly and Parade Act that they say violates human rights.

PHOTO: CNA

Civic groups yesterday slammed the government over a proposed amendment to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) that would require demonstrators to notify authorities of any demonstration ahead of time, saying that it violated international conventions.

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights said the amendment was not only a violation of human rights, but that it also violated the UN’s International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which was ratified by the legislature last month.

The amendments proposed by the Cabinet state that organizers must notify police of a protest’s time, location and parade route five days in advance of any protest and that violators could be fined up to NT$50,000.

Police would have the right to ban a rally or change its route if they believed it would jeopardize national security, social order or the public interest. The amendment would also give police the right to order the break up of any rally that was blocking traffic.

“If the Cabinet’s proposed amendment to the act is passed by the legislature, it would violate Article 21 [of the ICCPR],” said Wu Hao-jen (吳豪人), an executive member of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

Article 21 of the ICCPR states: “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right,” except for cases where the national interest, public security and public heath may be threatened.

Son Yu-lian (孫友聯), secretary-general of the Taiwan Labour Front, said it was “ridiculous” to require demonstrators to notify authorities ahead of time because it meant that police could strip people of the right to assembly.

He said rising unemployment rates in recent months had caused many workers to suffer and that “workers have no way of voicing their concerns to the government other than by taking to the streets.”

“We will call on everyone to begin a period of civil disobedience,” he said.

Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正), executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation, said police brutality during the visit of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) last year had not been forgotten.

Prosecutors announced last week that they would not indict former Beitou Police Precinct chief Lee Han-ching (李漢卿), who was accused of forcibly closing a record store during protests against Chen’s visit. Their investigation concluded that a sales clerk at the store had voluntarily turned down the music and pulled down the shutters after being asked to do so by police, prosecutors said.

“Is it possible that a store, during normal business hours, would voluntarily pull down its shutters?” said Lin, who remained skeptical of the prosecutors’ decision.

He said the amendment would give police power to control even the kind of music played in record stores and that it posed a threat to the nation’s hard-won human rights.

The association predicted that the amendment would be passed by the legislature today and it has scheduled a march around the Legislative Yuan this morning.

In related news, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday expressed the hope that the legislature would quickly pass the amendments to the Act.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王育琦) said that Ma hoped to see his campaign promise realized and that the revisions would meet the expectations of the public that the law be made more relaxed and reasonable.

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