Conflict could erupt in Tuesday’s legislative plenary session unless a cross-party consensus is reached on a hotly contended amendment to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.
“The proposed draft is a prelude to martial law. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] in the past have said the government must give road rights back to the people. However, this draft will hand road rights over to an authoritarian government,” DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday on the eve of a 12-day trip to the US and Canada.
Tsai was referring to amendments proposed by the Cabinet that would require protest organizers to notify police of a protest’s time, location and parade route five days in advance 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 proposed amendment said. The amendment would also give police the right to break up any rally that was blocking traffic.
Tsai yesterday vowed her party would boycott the draft. The freedom to assemble is the people’s “last line of defense” to keep the government in check, she said.
The party also urged the government to stop discouraging public participation in a planned demonstration because of the H1N1 swine flu.
The DPP said it will hold a rally on May 17 in Taipei City for the public to voice discontent toward what the party calls the government’s failure to improve the job market and protect Taiwan’s sovereignty in talks with Beijing.
“Does the KMT really think the party or the public would be stupid enough to hold a large-scale rally if there is a pandemic? Why keep saying we should cancel the event when the virus has not even reached Taiwan?” DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
Meanwhile, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday he would not attend the May 17 demonstration.
Chen, who has been held at the Taipei Detention Center in Tucheng (土城), Taipei County, since December as he faces charges of embezzlement, money laundering, taking bribes and forgery, had previously pledged to join the rally if he were released before May 17, but said yesterday that his physical condition would not allow him to participate.
“My legs, arms and my back are still aching ... I won’t be able to join you all on the streets even if I am released before May 17. I apologize to all my supporters,” Chen said in a written statement issued by his office.
Chen urged the DPP to stress the concept of “Taiwan and China, one country on each side” and promote Taiwan sovereignty at the rally.
“The KMT can avoid talking about Taiwanese sovereignty, but the DPP would lose its values if it refuses to touch upon the sovereignty issue,” he said.
Chen also brought up the issue of his DPP membership application, and urged the party not to use “double standards” as it processes his application.
“I am not the only DPP member [to be indicted], but why do I get different treatment?” Chen said.
Chen and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), withdrew from the DPP last August after he admitted that Wu had wired an unspecified amount of money overseas from donations he had received during his election campaigns. He submitted a party membership application last week.