Lawmakers and Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁) debated amendments to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) yesterday, with a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker calling for it to be abolished altogether.
DPP Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) re-proposed amendments to the act this legislative session, saying she had proposed them in the previous legislature, but they did not pass a final reading due to a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) boycott.
“We all know the law was established in 1988 as one of the three laws for national security [with the other two being the National Security Act (國家安全法) and the Civil Associations Act (人民團體法)] for the government to retain its power over the people and restrict the public’s basic human rights after martial law was lifted” in 1987, Cheng said.
“The Assembly and Parade Act, instituted with a Martial Law-period mindset, contradicts the Constitution, which guarantees people’s rights to assembly and demonstration,” she said.
Cheng said that authority given by the act should be moved from “the police agencies to the Ministry of the Interior and local governments.”
“However, the most important amendment would be scrapping the regulation requiring people to apply for government approval before staging an outdoor assembly or a parade. Under the amendment, people would need to notify the agencies of their plan only if they choose to,” Cheng said.
Cheng said that the “necessary notification” required by the amendment proposed by the Executive Yuan “is in essence no different from the existing regulations that require approval.”
Cheng motioned for the removal of restriction on the places demonstrations and assemblies could be staged and of the power of the authorities to call for the dispersal of assemblies.
“The Executive Yuan’s proposal keeps the dispersal power, which has been a source of tension between the police and the people,” she said.
Meanwile, DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) called for the act to be abolished altogether.
“We have seen state violence in response to a series of street activities in the past years, but when an opposition party, striving to amend the law, becomes the ruling party, it changes its mind and says that the law is appropriate,” Lin said.
“We have to state it clearly that we have no confidence in any ruling party, regardless of which it is; we have no confidence that state violence would not fall upon the people” with the law as it is, she said.
“Some might question how social stability could be maintained without the law, but social stability [should not be conditioned on] the curbing of the people’s basic rights. With the abolishment of the act, administrative regulations could instead be established for to maintain order,” Lin said.
“We have to follow their trend because they have more votes,” KMT Legislator Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) said. “It would be fine for me if they want Taiwan to be more chaotic. It is our turn to take to the streets.”
Chen Wei-zen said the amendments have to be carefully deliberated as, for instance, changing the regulations to voluntary notification would cause problems concerning proposed routes, schedules and the possibility of facing provocation.
Abolishing the restricted zones would also put the security of key agencies and facilities at risk, he added.
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