Minister promises probe into policing at Huaguang

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 - Page 4

Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) yesterday promised to launch a probe into alleged heavy-handed treatment of protesters and media by police during the forced demolition of houses in the Huaguang Community (華光) in Taipei on Wednesday.

Showing a video clip of Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) photojournalist Wang Min-wei (王敏為) being manhandled by police officers when taking pictures of officers grabbing Huaguang residents and supporters who tried to stop a demolition squad from getting close to two houses scheduled to be torn down on Wednesday, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) yesterday demanded that the Ministry of the Interior launch an investigation and punish officers where necessary.

“Pictures and video clips posted on the Internet show that the police tried several times to stop reporters on the scene from doing their jobs, while many protesters have been treated brutally — including an incident in which a student protester was slapped in the face,” Huang said during a question-and-answer session at the legislative Internal Administration Committee meeting. “This is unacceptable, the ministry must investigate it, and penalize officers responsible for misconduct.”

While saying he was not clear about what really happened, the minister promised to launch a probe, and report to the Internal Administration Committee in one month.

“The Taipei City Police Department and the Special Police Force handled yesterday’s demolition, I don’t have the details about what happened there [in Huaguang Community] yesterday, but I will certainly ask the National Police Agency to look into it,” Lee said. “It should not be a problem for the ministry to report to the committee in a month.”

The committee also adopted a formal solution asking the ministry to investigate the incident, while also making public guidelines for penalties for officers within a week.

Separately yesterday, the Taiwan Press Photographer Association criticized the police for blocking photojournalists from taking pictures during the Huaguang protest.

“It’s part of the job of a photojournalist to be physically present as news events take place. It is regrettable that police officers have attempted to force out photographers on several occasions,” the statement said. “The freedom of the press cannot be sacrificed. Brutally evicting and harassing photojournalists is harmful to our democracy and the right of the public to know.”