President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will respect police security arrangements at public events, the Presidential Office said yesterday, dismissing allegations that the president opposed the use of nets by police to block objects hurled by protesters.
“President Ma absolutely respects the special security center’s professional judgement, and there is no instruction for the police to discontinue use of the nets,” Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.
Lee made the comments in response to a story in the Chinese-language China Times that Ma was not supportive of the police’s latest move to purchase nets and use them to protect him from shoes thrown by protesters.
The story said Ma had instructed the police not to set up the nets out at public events he attended.
Ma told the special security center that he wanted to attend events without dodging the public, and they should treat protests as normal.
The special security center later negotiated with the police and decided not to use nets as a security tool if the scale of protests was small, the story said.
The police began using nets at public events Ma attended after an increasing number of protests against him in recent weeks. Protesters have thrown shoes at the president during his appearances, prompting security personnel prepare nets to block any items thrown.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) said that the police spent NT$500,000 purchasing the so-called “shoe-catching nets” to be used during Ma’s appearances.
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) also expressed his concern about the use of the nets, saying that it is “stupid” for the police to purchase nets and use them to block objects thrown by protesters.
Lee Chia-fei said the special security center always make security arrangements according to the number of participants at the venue, the surrounding environment at the event and the scale of protests, and will decide whether nets are necessary.
When Ma visited Asia University in Greater Taichung on Thursday, the police did not set up nets because the protesters were outside the campus, she said.
“Local police will carry nets with them at events, and the security personnel will make a final decision on whether the nets should be used,” she said.