Images of riot police hitting student protesters occupying the Executive Yuan with their batons and shields on Monday have left a painful memory in the hearts of many doctors who risked their own safety to treat wounded students.
National Taiwan University Hospital physician Liu Lin-wei (柳林瑋) said the medical team of doctors and specialists originally stationed outside the Legislative Yuan rushed to the Executive Yuan building upon learning of the students’ surprising occupation of the nation’s highest administrative body on Sunday evening.
“When we arrived, we heard people shouting ‘there are people injured’ everywhere. About 40 to 60 people were sent to our makeshift medical station every hour during the government’s forcible eviction of protesters,” Liu said.
Liu said the police’s use of violence against young students was unthinkable, particularly when the latter clearly did not treat the former as their enemies, as evidenced by their willingness to make way for a police officer who sustained neck injuries and required immediate medical attention.
The medical team offered treatment to anyone injured, including student protesters, police officers and bystanders, for humanitarian reasons, Liu said.
“However, when we told the police that we would like to set up a makeshift medical station outside the Executive Yuan before they carried out the forced eviction, they threatened to handcuff us if we did so,” Liu said.
Liu said the medical team later decided to retreat from the protest scene due to safety concerns, to which the police responded with a sarcastic round of applause.
Another doctor, surnamed Chan (詹), said the students occupying the Executive Yuan were rational and calm until they were forcibly evicted by riot police.
“Some of them sustained chest contusions after being pushed around by riot shields, while others were hit on the heads with batons. A few of them were brought to tears and looked really terrified,” Chan said.
Chan said the medical team was only equipped to treat minor injuries, which was why students who suffered severe wounds, such as fractured shanks, were directly carried out of the building through the back entrance by the police and taken to hospital in an ambulance.
“Paramedics had asked us to help assess the severity of the students’ injuries so that they could determine more accurately whether they required hospital care, but the police flatly turned down their request,” Chan said.
A medical worker who spoke on condition of anonymity described the forced eviction as a “tragedy beyond compare.”
“I saw riot police attacking unarmed people with batons in front of me. They even forced an elderly man into a corner and beat him down. It felt like the Martial Law era all over again,” the worker said.
Taiwanese metal band Chthonic’s lead singer Freddy Lim (林昶佐), who joined student protesters in occupying the Executive Yuan, dismissed media reports that they had vandalized the building.
“Some media reported that we had taken down curtains in the building and thrown chair pads to the ground. What they did not know is that we did so in order to create a comfortable space where injured people could be treated since there were fragments of glass all over the floor,” Lim said.
In related developments, Lin Chin-yi (林靜儀), an obstetrician gynecologist at Chung Shan Medical University Hospital, yesterday resigned as a member of the Executive Yuan’s Gender Equality Committee.
“I can’t walk across the area stained by the students’ blood [in the Executive Yuan] and sit down in a meeting with Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) as if nothing had happened,” said Lin, who had earlier accepted the position and yesterday received her formal letter of appointment. “My heart still aches whenever the images of scared students screaming and running come to mind.”
The Executive Yuan said it accepted and respected Lin’s decision.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan and Wang Yu-hui