Miaoli activists protest against arrests

ABUSE OF JUSTICE::Dapu protesters say the police are using the Assembly and Parade Act to intimidate the activists, and are refusing to be questioned in protest

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter, in Miaoli

Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - Page 3

While refusing to be questioned by the police over allegedly illegal protests against development projects in Miaoli County, activists charged by the police, as well as their supporters, yesterday attempted to ask the county commissioner to take questions from people, sparking minor physical clashes with the police.

“Since July 18, as many as 21 people have been charged with violations of the Assembly and Parade Act [集會遊行法] and interference with public functions, though whether they have actually violated the law is questionable, and most of those whose cases were investigated by prosecutors were acquitted right away,” Taiwan Rural Front (TRF) secretary-general Frida Tsai (蔡培慧) told the crowd in front of the Miaoli County Hall yesterday. “It is obvious that the police — directed by government officials — are arresting protesters and charging them with law violations only to scare people off or to interrupt protests.”

On July 18, the county government partially or completely destroyed the last four houses resisting demolition to make way for a science park in the farming village of Dapu Borough (大埔), Jhunan Township (竹南).

Tsai went on to say that all the protesters — including herself — who were charged with violating the assembly law have refused to be questioned by the police, “not because we are trying to dodge legal responsibility, but because we are protesting the government’s repression of our freedom of expression through the police.”

“We will not dodge legal responsibility, we will go to the court and explain to the prosecutor and the judge the reason why we did what we did and shoulder the court sentences,” she said.

Youth Alliance for Miaoli spokesman Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) also faced charges for several violations and panned the Special Investigation Division (SID) — which reports directly to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office — for not wanting to investigate into corruption charges against Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻).

“We reported to the SID Liu’s alleged corruption cases on Aug. 19, but the division assigned the cases to the Miaoli Prosecutors’ Office, saying that it’s not under their jurisdiction,” Chen said. “But the division is responsible for investigating serious corruption charges. Moreover, we reported directly to the division because Liu could have some influence over the Miaoli Prosecutors’ Office.”

“I wonder how is it the investigative division’s responsibility to look into alleged under table lobbying by the legislative speaker, but not corruption by a county head?” Chen asked.

Chen then asked about 100 protesters to deliver a notice for Liu to explain himself to the people to the county hall, however, they were immediately blocked by a line of police officers.

“If the SID does nothing, we the citizens will do something,” the protesters chanted as they pushed and shoved against officers.

Unable to break through the police line, the protesters then turned to Liu’s private home in Houlong Township (後龍).

They were again stopped by police officers and yet another wave of clashes broke out as they tried to march to the county commissioner’s house.

To resolve the standoff, an officer came out to take the notice, promising to deliver it to Liu.

As the clashes were going on, another group of protesters painted a large character (拆) (chai, “demolish”) on the road leading to Liu’s house.

Wang Hsiao-ti (王小棣), a film director who has made a movie about police officers, also appeared at the demonstration and said that she was disappointed to see police treating the people brutally to protect the county commissioner.

“I understand you [officers] may not want to do this, but you have to follow orders,” Wang said. “Please remember that you work to protect this country and its people, not politicians.”