Rights advocates yesterday called on the public to boycott Eslite bookstore unless it apologizes for the way security personnel treated three Hong Kong students when they staged a protest in Taipei against a visit by Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang (曾俊華) on Monday.
Tsang was in Taiwan to inaugurate the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei, located in an office tower where Eslite Bookstore’s headquarters and its flagship store are also located.
When the three students appeared in the lobby of the building as Tsang was attending the inauguration ceremony, they were hit, pushed and dragged out of the building, while also being told to “get out” by security personnel.
Scuffles continued even after the three were outside and when one of the students asked security guards not to push him, the guard allegedly said: “I push you, so what?” and “This is our place.”
Later, the three protested in the bookstore when Tsang attended a ceremony to launch a new book related to Hong Kong.
They said they were also treated violently by bookstore security staff and employees, with two of the students almost falling off an escalator during a scuffle.
“The Eslite bookstore chain most represents cultural enterprise in the Chinese-speaking world and we regret that it’s not doing anything when freedom of expression is compromised. It’s also to the shame of Taiwan,” New School for Democracy (NSD) — an NGO that hosts courses and forums on freedom and democracy — said in a statement as it launched an online campaign calling on Eslite to apologize.
“We demand that Eslite Bookstore apologize to Fan Tsun Long (樊俊朗) and his classmates,” the statement said.
More than 100 people — from Hong Kong and Taiwan — had signed the petition within hours of it being put online.
“I’m a VIP member of Eslite Bookstore, but I hereby announce that I refuse to buy anything from the bookstore until it apologizes,” Yiong Cong-ziin (楊長鎮), the Democratic Progressive Party’s Department of Hakka Affairs director, said in a message as he signed the petition.
“I thought this would only happen in Hong Kong, I thought Taiwan is an open, free and democratic country. I thought Eslite was a liberal bookstore,” Hong Kong resident Tam Ka Pok (譚家博) posted. “Are these only my misunderstandings?”
Separately yesterday, acting Democratic Progressive Party chairperson Chen Chu (陳菊) expressed concern about the violence used against the Hong Kong students.
The government’s inaction against the apparent human rights violation was “a shame of Taiwanese democracy,” she said in a press release, adding the government should ensure everyone is able to express his or her opinion freely.
Wang Hsing-chung (王興中), NSD secretary-general, yesterday accompanied the students to file a report at a police station. Wang said the students would file charges against the security personnel who caused them bodily harm.
Eslite dispatched a representative to the police station to talk with the students and promised to investigate the matter and give an explanation tomorrow.
Additional reporting by Chris Wang and Chen Hui-ping