Fri, May 08, 2009 - Page 3 News List

DPP says Ma seeks to quell protests

RALLY The DPP said its sit-in would test the tolerant attitude the president had showed anti-Chen Shui-bian protesters in 2006 when he was mayor of Taipei

By Jenny W. Hsu and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The government is eager to pass its version of an amendment to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) so it can exert stricter control over protests that take place during the fourth cross-strait negotiations to be held in Taiwan later this year, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.

DPP youth director Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) yesterday urged the government to drop its efforts to push through the amendment that would allow police to suspend a rally or change the route of a protest march if authorities deemed it a threat to national security, social order or the public interest.

The DPP has long criticized the government’s version of the assembly law, which in the party’s view would take Taiwan back to the era of Martial Law, turning the country into a police state.

“We suspect the reason President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is so eager to pass the act is because during the upcoming fourth cross-strait negotiations, Taiwan and Beijing will sign an economic cooperation framework agreement [ECFA] despite strong objection from all sides,” DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) told a press conference yesterday, adding that Ma planned to use the act to silence the public.

The party also said it would not be intimidated away from its plan to hold a round-the-clock sit-in in front of the Presidential Office next weekend.

On Wednesday, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced via teleconference from Washington that the party would stage a 24-hour sit-in protest following its rally on May 17.

Chao said all party leaders were required to report to the sit-in area by 5pm after the march and that so far, public support has been overwhelming from all around the country.

DPP caucus whip Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said the purpose of the rally and the sit-in was to test if Ma still held the same “tolerant” attitude he had shown as mayor of Taipei during the “red shirt” protests against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2006.

Lee quoted Ma as saying the police were unable to evict the red shirt protestors because they outnumbered the police.

“If we do not receive the same treatment as the red shirt army, then it would be sufficient to say that Ma has had a complete change of heart now that he is the president,” Lee said.

DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said the protest would proceed peacefully and any deviation would be because of provocation by police and the government.

“Since the DPP is constantly outvoted by the KMT in the legislature, the best place for the party to speak up for the people is on the streets,” she said.

The DPP said Tsai would hold an international press conference on the eve of the rally to explain the purpose of the demonstration and the people’s anger against the government.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) yesterday criticized Tsai’s announcement, saying the DPP’s plan to stay overnight on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office would inconvenience commuters the next morning.

Yang said that Chen was the puppet master behind the rally. She did not present evidence to back her claim.

KMT Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said although the opposition enjoyed the right to protest, organizers of the rally should abide by the law.

“The DPP should peacefully express its opinions on May 17 and avoid conflict and violence because this would deal a blow to the image of our democracy,” he said.

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