The Taipei City Police Department and Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC, 台北捷運公司) yesterday warned antinuclear protesters against an “Occupy the Mass Rapid Transit” (MRT) campaign announced on the Internet, saying such a protest would violate the Criminal Code and participants could face up to five years in prison.
The campaign details, which were posted online yesterday, called for 33,000 people boarding MRT trains on the Tamsui Line at the same time to protest against what organizers said was the government’s failure to respond to the public’s demand that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) be halted.
The proposers of the campaign said the plan was a creative solution to police use of batons and water cannons to evict antinuclear protesters in Taipei on Sunday and after a 30-minute occupation of the intersection of Zhongxiao E and Linsen S roads on Tuesday was criticized by some members of the public.
“Let us see whether Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) would use water cannons against us in an MRT station,” the organizers said.
The Taipei City Police Department and TRTC issued a press release warning that the proposed protest could affect the travel plans of up to 1.85 million people.
Police said organizers of such an action and those who promote it could face prison terms of up to two years, while anyone convicted of taking part could receive a five-year sentence.
Protesters should not “hijack” the public’s safety and livelihoods, and the city government would “take all necessary legal measures to maintain social order,” city spokesperson Chang Chih-chiang (張其強) cited Hau as saying.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) voiced concern about the “street guerrilla” demonstrations, especially the attempt on Tuesday to block lawmakers from leaving the Legislative Yuan.
Protesters on Tuesday said the lawmakers should not leave because they “were not doing their job of making antinuclear laws.”
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who was criticized for complaining in a Facebook post about being blocked, apologized yesterday, saying that she was not trying to discredit the protesters’ efforts, but that cooperation and mutual understanding are important.
The protesters’ action could be interpreted as infringing lawmakers’ personal liberty, which is illegal and would “cross the line,” DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told reporters.
“If you cross the line and are unreasonable, the antinuclear cause will then be challenged and lose public support,” Ker said.
However, former premiers Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) said that the government’s failure to address people’s concerns had quickly caused the situation to get out of hand.
“If the administrative branch is paralyzed and does not respond quickly to demands, more people are likely to take extreme measures to get attention,” Hsieh said.
The Ministry of the Interior yesterday condemned anyone who protests “in an unlawful way,” vowing that it would make an all-out effort to disperse illegal demonstrations, even by putting “repeat offenders and extremists” in preemptive detention.
“Some activists have protested in an unlawful way, which not only affected others’ right to use public roads, but also intentionally challenged the government’s authority,” Deputy Minister of the Interior Jonathan Chen (陳敬純) told reporters after a meeting with the representatives of the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Justice and the Taipei City Government on dealing with future demonstrations that paralyze traffic.
“We will take harsh measures against repeat offenders and extremists,” Chen said. “We hope to stop them by asking prosecutors to ask [the courts] to pre-emptively detain these people.”
Meanwhile, Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-jen (陳威仁) said the ministry respected freedom of expression, but would not tolerate those who break the law.
“Our stance has always been to protect the lawful, sanction the unlawful and fight violence,” the minister said. “In addition to taking necessary measures to maintain order, the police will not hesitate to arrest those who may have violated the law, and therefore I would like to call on civic groups and protesters to not cross that ‘red line.’”
Chen Wei-jen said he was referring to action by antinuclear activists, who on Tuesday blocked the Legislative Yuan’s gates to keep lawmakers inside.
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