Students who have broken the law during protests against the cross-strait service trade agreement will not be treated differently from other lawbreakers, Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) said yesterday.
Luo made the remarks during a meeting with New Taipei City law enforcement authorities in response to a joint statement issued by several university presidents calling for leniency for students who may have broken the law during their occupation of the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber since March 18 in protest against the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement.
The fact that the protest involves students does not mean the authorities should turn a blind eye to actions against the law, Luo said.
“It is behavior rather than identity that is subject to punishment under the law,” Luo said.
Two valuable artworks the ministry gave to the Executive Yuan were damaged when hundreds of protesters broke into its compound late March 23, she added.
The students “did not know what they were doing” and it was very dangerous because they felt “powerful” because of their actions, she said.
Asked whether prosecutors would only summon leaders of the student-led Sunflower movement after it is over, Luo said many people have filed lawsuits against the student leaders and prosecutors must therefore investigate them.
“I don’t think prosecutors would wait until the end of the student movement because their work is constantly ongoing,” she said.
Judicial authorities have identified more than 200 students and members of the public who may have violated the law during the protests — some of whom have already been questioned by police.
Five permanent trustees of the Association of National Universities of Taiwan, including the presidents of National Taiwan University, Sun Yat-sen University, Chiao Tung University, Chung Hsing University and Cheng Kung University, issued a joint statement asking the government to deal with the students’ actions with leniency and strike a balance between safeguarding the constitutional right to freedom of speech and the rule of law.
They also urged the students to end their protest soon and return to classes.