Tue, Jul 16, 2019 - Page 3 News List

New rule restricts political activity in national parks

By Huang Hsin-po  /  Staff reporter

A new rule that bans political campaigning in the nine national parks took effect on Saturday after the Ministry of the Interior amended the park regulations.

People who are found campaigning in the parks could face a fine of NT$1,500 to NT$3,000.

The legislative effort came following last year’s nine-in-one elections when independent Taipei city councilor candidate Cheng Chien-hsin (鄭建炘) held up a People’s Republic of China (PRC) flag on the peak of Yushan (玉山, Jade Mountain).

Cheng, who calls himself “a staunch defender of the PRC flag,” in October last year took his family climbing to the summit of Yushan, from which he brandished a PRC flag and trumpeted his pro-unification beliefs, triggering a massive outcry.

He garnered 233 votes.

To prevent a similar incident, the ministry in May began to amend the rules for the national parks and included a new regulation that reads: “Any political event that could cause controversy or division shall be banned.”

The amendments, completed on Friday, cover the nine parks, as well as the planned Shoushan National Park.

The no-campaigning rule for Kenting National Park stipulates a fine of NT$3,000 for any offender, while in the regulations for the other parks, first-time offenders and repeat offenders would be fined NT$1,500 and NT$3,000 respectively.

The rule is meant to prevent people from engaging in political activity in the parks, disturbing the peace or agitating others, Construction and Planning Agency Deputy Director-General Chen Chi-ming (陳繼鳴) said.

However, fines would be issued based on whether offenders have affected others so that freedom of speech is upheld, he added.

For example, those carrying backpacks sporting the image of the PRC flag or those who briefly take out a PRC flag for a selfie barely affect others, so they would not be fined, he added.

However, singing China’s national anthem or waving a large PRC flag are actions punishable under the rule, as such actions would bother other park visitors, he said.

Each park’s administration would decide whether someone’s actions warranted a fine, he added.

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