The Taiwan High Court yesterday overturned a Taipei District Court ruling which found two Sunflower movement leaders guilty of violent conduct for clashes with police officers as they tried to enter a public hearing session at the Legislative Yuan on July 31, 2013, on a proposed trade pact with China.
The district court in August last year found academic Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴) and student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) guilty of obstructing an officer in the discharge of their duties.
Tsay was sentenced to 40 days in prison and fined NT$40,000 and Chen was sentenced to 20 days in prison and fined NT$20,000.
In its ruling, the High Court said the proposed cross-strait service trade agreement with China had involved important social and public affairs issues, and at the time, Tsay and Chen did not engage in excessive, violent means, nor did they obstruct police officers from carrying out their duties.
Yesterday’s ruling cannot be appealed.
The Sunflower movement refers to massive protests, largely by university students, that began in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on March 18, 2014, in which they voiced anger over the speed in which then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators were trying to get the legislature to review the proposed trade pact.
The protesters stormed the legislature and occupied its main chamber.
The occupation lasted until April 10, several days after then-legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) agreed that the trade agreement would not be reviewed before an oversight act was passed.
Despite political and public opposition, Ma signed the trade pact in June 2013, but it remained unratified by the legislature, which commenced a series of public hearing sessions and legislative committee meetings.
On July 31, 2013, Tsay and Chen led hundreds of students and other protesters as they tried to enter the legislature to take part in the “public” sessions, but they were met by police, who blocked them from entering the hearing.
Physical confrontations ensued, with protesters pushing and shoving against the police cordon.
The KMT legislative caucus said the session was only for legislators and invited experts and observers, and the internal rules did not permit “uninvited persons” to enter the hearing.
Tsay and Chen said they had invitations from Democratic Progressive Party legislators.
During his trial, Chen said the KMT was trying to ram through the trade pact.
“We wanted to join the hearing to express our viewpoints,” he said. “It was our right as citizens to do so, and to get to know what was going on.”
After learning of the High Court’s ruling, Tsay said: “Now I have one less judicial case against me, which is good news for my wife. My struggle against the government over the long run has brought much pressure to my family, and I feel bad for my wife and my family.”
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