Wed, Jul 18, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Museum stifling pro-independence protests: activists

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Several Taiwanese independence advocates yesterday accused the security guards at the National Palace Museum of using violence to stop their protest in front of the museum and of violating their freedom of speech to curry favor with Chinese tourists.

To protest againstPresident Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) proposed peace accord with China, seven independence advocates visited the museum on Wednesday last week and held banners with slogans that read “Taiwanese independence” at the entrance, drawing the attention of security guards. A clash took place as one of the guards snapped a flag pole in two and scratched a protester during a scuffle.

“We were having a peaceful protest standing in front of the entrance with flags. The security guards came over and tried to grab the flags without any explanation. I didn’t realize until later that they are not real police,” one of the protesters, Lee Wen-bin (李文賓), told a press conference at the Taipei City Council.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Tung Chung-yen (童仲彥) accused the museum’s guards of abusing their authority by violating the protesters’ freedom of speech and urged Taipei City Police Department’s Shilin branch to take over responsibility for maintaining public order at the museum.

“We see many Chinese tourists carrying all kinds of flags while visiting the museum, but no security guards have ever tried to take those flags away. The museum apparently applies double standards and tries so hard to please Chinese tourists that no one can talk about Taiwanese independence in front of them,” he said.

Lee said the group has held protests at various locations, including the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan and the Control Yuan, which were never dispersed by the police.

He also questioned the striking similarities between the security guards’ uniforms and police uniforms, and said Taipei Police Department should ask the museum to change the uniforms of its security guards to avoid confusion.

Lin Hou-yu (林厚宇), chief of the museum’s security office, yesterday apologized for the behavior of the guards, while dismissing concerns that the museum was attempting to block pro-independence sentiments being displayed in the presence of Chinese tourists.

“Our security guards lost their temper while trying to communicate with the protesters. We will strengthen our training in anger management,” he said.

As to the security guards’ uniforms, Lin Chung-chih (林崇志), a divisional director at Shilin Police District, said the uniforms of the guards were designed in accordance with regulations governing security guards at institutions and schools under the Ministry of the Interior.

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