Chen Jiau-hua asks public to safeguard 'freedom of speech'

HUNGER STRIKE: The activist said yesterday that she was protesting the NCC's issuance of WiMAX licenses, which she says is a health risk


Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 2

Former Taiwan Environmental Protection Union chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) made a public plea for freedom of speech yesterday following her prosecution by the Taipei City Public Prosecutors Office for violating protest laws.

In July, Chen allegedly led a 24-hour hunger strike in front of National Communications Commission (NCC) without a permit, indictment documents said, adding that despite three official warnings Chen had persisted with the rally.

Chen faces a maximum of two years in prison, the indictment says.

Chen told reporters at an environmental conference yesterday that she was protesting the NCC's issuance of Worldwide Inter-operability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) licenses to six telecommunication companies because "WiMAX towers emit electromagnetic waves of 4,000 to 5,000 microwatts per square meter, which is dangerous to human health."

"It was a peaceful demonstration because I was the only protester," she said. "I was pressed for time to protest before the issuance and did so to warn fellow Taiwanese."

WiMAX is a platform that supports outdoors wireless Internet broadband access, she said.

She also said: "People should know that in European countries such as Germany and Sweden, governments have been withholding WiMAX licenses before they can determine whether it represents a health risk to humans. Our government should do the same."

NCC spokesperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) said the issuance of the licenses followed stringent screening procedures and was in compliance with regulations published by the Environmental Protection Administration.

"While safety precautions should be taken, the issue should be investigated objectively," he said. "One should not accuse WiMAX towers of causing illnesses such as cancer without evidence, as this could cause public anxiety."