Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) yesterday assured Taichung residents they would be able to carry on with “their normal lives” during the upcoming cross-strait talks in the city and dismissed speculation that authorities would ask businesses near the venue of the meeting to shut down.
“We welcome protesters to express different opinions in a peaceful and rational manner,” she said. “We certainly hope that people would be able to carry on their normal activities and businesses would operate as usual.”
“[The speculation] could be a misunderstanding,” she said, “because as far as I know, the city had never planned to restrict anybody from doing anything.”
Lai added, however, that her council respected the Taichung City Government’s authority in handling security matters during the meeting between Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) later this month.
She said both the central and city governments have come to a consensus that freedom of speech must be protected and that protesters have the right to fully express their opinion in a peaceful, rational and legal manner.
Lai made the remarks in response to media reports that Taichung City police had asked shops near the meeting’s venue to close during the event.
Taichung Deputy Mayor Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家旗) yesterday confirmed that, out of security considerations, the police will set up a restricted zone in the vicinity of the Chiang-Chen meeting. However, all shops and schools within the restricted zone will remain open, he said.
Taichung City Police Bureau Director-General Hu Mu-yuan (胡木源) said police were only explaining to businesses in the area the situation during the Chiang-Chen meeting, but did not ask them to close during the visit.
While the city government welcomes civic groups to express their views, Hsiao said if there were any “untoward incident,” the city government would not rule out taking “necessary measures” to ensure public safety. He did not elaborate.
Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) said that the city government would try to minimize disturbance to the public, but also urged people to refrain from challenging security officers who have to take action to ensure security inside the restricted zone.
Many groups have applied to demonstrate near the meeting’s venue and police estimated the number of protesters could exceed tens of thousands, Hu Mu-yuan said.
Lai stressed that the four agreements Taipei and Beijing are seeking to sign at the Chiang-Chen talks are “highly technical and professional” in nature, and the meeting would be a good opportunity for the two sides to enunciate their views and for their voices to be heard at the negotiations.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER
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