Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-sponsored reforms to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) ignore the act’s core flaws, civil activists said yesterday, blasting draft legislation that upholds police rights to forcefully disperse demonstrators, while failing to eliminate “forbidden zones” near government buildings.
More than 20 demonstrators from the Huaguang Community Canvassing Working Group (華光社區訪調小組), the National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories, Taiwan Association for Human Rights and other groups protested outside DPP headquarters before marching to the Taiwan High Court building for a hearing on a government suit against Huaguang activists, who face possible prison terms for “interfering with official duties” during efforts to prevent the community’s demolition.
Huaguang demonstrators who led the march wore chains to symbolize unfair legal restrictions on protest rights, with other people periodically playing horns, trombones and trumpets.
The use of trumpets was a play on the pronunciation of the word “trumpet,” an offensive Hoklo phrase lanpa (卵葩, testicles), to criticize “bombastic” DPP promises.
“The DPP has always claimed that they would continually push for human rights, but we do not see any real sincerity in their revision of the Assembly and Parade Act,” Huaguang Community Canvassing Working Group member Ho Yu-lun (何友倫) said.
The Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee last week passed draft amendments to the act, removing application requirements, fines and prison sentences, and imposing new duties on police to protect demonstrators.
However, the amendments continue to allow police to forcefully disperse demonstrators and only shrink – rather than eliminate – “restricted” zones that police can impose near government buildings, violating two key demands of civil activists.
Ho said that the wording of the amendments would make police dispersion even more difficult to check by requiring only that police negotiate with demonstrators before dispersing them, differing from previous wording, which stated that police officers must issue three clear warnings before dispersal.
“Because there is no way to determine whether police have already ‘negotiated,’ they would be able to directly disperse demonstrators,” he said.
Huaguang Community Canvassing Working Group member Cheng Chung-hao (鄭仲皓) said preserving restricted zones unfairly limits demonstrators’ freedom of speech by preventing government officials from being forced to hear their demands.
“Police should not be allowed to set up a ‘defense’ against our protest rights,” he said, adding that rules should instead allow police to force protestors to withdraw to a “safe distance” only if special circumstances arise.
“Shrinking the size of restricted zones is a word game because it will not change any real conditions,” labor activist Kuo Kuan-chun (郭冠均) said, adding that police already choose not to establish maximum “restricted zones” near most ministries and government buildings.
Demonstrators also called for the DPP to not ignore revisions to other laws.
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