The Taichung Branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday ruled former Sunflower movement student leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) “guilty, but exempt from punishment” for throwing his shoe at then-Miaoli county commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) in 2013 during the memorial service for Dapu Borough (大埔) resident Chang Sen-wen (張森文).
Chang’s home in Dapu was torn down by the county government on July 17, 2013, on direct orders from Liu. Chang, distraught over the demolition, was found dead in an irrigation channel on Sept. 18.
It was unclear whether he was murdered or committed suicide.
Yesterday’s verdict, which also gave a court order for returning the shoe to Chen, was widely seen as a victory for the 24-year-old social activist, who is currently a graduate student at the National Tsing Hua University Institute of Sociology in Hsinchu County.
The ruling was final and cannot be appealed.
Chen attended the court verdict hearing yesterday, and was quoted as saying: “I am happy with the decison. It found me guilty, although ruled me exempt from punishment.
In the first ruling on the case in July last year, a lower court found Chen guilty of throwing the shoe to humiliate Liu, which caused harm to Liu’s dignity. It ordered the shoe confiscated and Chen fined NT$10,000.
Chen said he threw the shoe at Liu to stop him from entering the venue for the memorial service, after Chang’s family stated clearly that Liu was not welcome to attend.
In yesterday’s court hearing, Chen took the stand to insist that the shoe-throwing was to stop Liu from forcing his way into the memorial service and that it was an act of in “self-defense.”
According to the High Court verdict, Chen has been active in public issues, and during the protests against the Dapu housing expropriation and demolition, and Chang’s family has come to regard Chen as a member of the extended family.
“Chen threw the shoe to express his dissatisfaction at the forceful eviction and house demolition in Dapu. Chen’s motive for his actions has its basis in the public’s interest, and he did it in a fit of anger during the situation... Although the shoe hit Liu, it did not cause an injury,” the ruling said.
Therefore, according to Article 61 of the Criminal Code, as there are mitigating circumstances, the defendant can be excused punishment, the ruling said.
“Liu was elected as head of Miaoli County, and should be responsive and listen to people. However, he applied strong-arm tactics to implement his government policies. At the time, he did not contact Chang’s family about attending the memorial service, showing no regard for the family members’ feelings. He should also bear some responsibility for the actions in leading to the shoe-throwing incident,” it said.
Following the verdict, Chang’s widow, Peng Hsiu-chun (彭秀春) said that: “Chen should have been found not guilty. Chen was like a kid in our family. Of course, he would try to stop the man who caused the death of my husband.”
Another Sunflower movement leader, Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), said Chen threw the shoe because he was protecting the funeral hall from unwelcome people.
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