Lawmakers and rights activists yesterday accused the police of brutality for using handcuffs when arresting peaceful demonstrators in Yuanli Township (苑裡), Miaoli County, earlier this week, actions that Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said were “unacceptable.”
“I was shocked when I saw what happened to the protesters,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) told a press conference at the legislature in Taipei after watching a video clip of student protesters and local residents in a demonstration against a wind turbine project on Sunday.
Staging a sit-in demonstration with no apparent acts of violence at the wind turbine construction site in Yuanli, several demonstrators were struck by police officers using batons and then handcuffed.
While supporting green energy, residents are worried about that the proximity of the turbines to their houses.
“What police did to the protesters shows that human rights conditions may be worse now than during the Martial Law era,” Tuan said. “I was active during social movements when I was a student during the Martial Law era and I was arrested several times, but I was never handcuffed.”
Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強), an executive member of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and a lawyer, said that according to the law, handcuffs can only be used when a suspect is resisting arrest or attempting to escape.
Based on this, “police officers have apparently abused their power,” Lai said.
Facing criticism, Miaoli County Police Department Chief Secretary Kao Chih-liang (高誌良) said the protesters who were on the construction site were trespassing, “so we were arresting them in flagrante delicto.”
Although the Police Duties Enforcement Act (警察職權行使法) stipulates that police officers on duty should follow the law with regards to an assembly, Kao said that officers were acting in accordance with the Criminal Code (刑法), not the Police Duties Enforcement Act or the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法).
During an Internal Administration Committee meeting at the legislature, Lee said after viewing the video clip that he could not accept how the protesters were treated.
Several other lawmakers across party lines also condemned the way the police had acted.
“These people are very clearly staging a demonstration, how is it not a demonstration? This is not only damaging the rights of the protesters, but also the image of the police force,” DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said.
“I can’t believe this has happened on the territory of the Republic of China,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥) said.
“It’s only some unarmed people holding hands together in a sit-in protest, they are not posing a threat to anybody, they didn’t deserve to be treated like this,” Chiu said.
Calling the behavior of the police officers “unacceptable,” Lee promised to investigate and deliver a full report to the legislature in two days.