Ahead of marches today for and against Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), National Police Agency (NPA) Director-General Chen Ja-chin (陳家欽) yesterday said that he would personally direct 3,200 police officers to maintain peace and order in Kaohsiung, vowing to arrest instigators of violence.
Chen said that he would be accompanied by other agency officials to ensure public safety by monitoring the Wecare Kaohsiung rally by a coalition of civic groups that aim to recall Han, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate in the Jan. 11 election, and the “Rise of the South: Kaohsiung’s Glory” parade in support of Han, organized by the KMT.
The two marches are to take separate routes in Kaohsiung’s north and south inner city areas, 3.8km apart at their closest, while organizers on both sides have estimated that they would be joined by at least 10,000 participants and possibly up to 100,000.
Confrontations that could lead to violence might occur when people head toward the assembly points for the marches and when dispersing afterward, as rival groups might come in contact on Kaohsiung MRT metropolitan railway trains, officials said, adding that the likely flash points would be Zuoying Station, Kaohsiung Main Station and Formosa Boulevard Station.
There are to be more services for the day, with train intervals reduced from eight to five minutes, while two police officers are to guard each carriage, they said.
The Kaohsiung Police Department has mobilized 2,000 officers — with a backup force of 1,000 from other units — who have orders to maintain high visibility and mobility, as well as to quickly respond to situations, Chen said.
Highway and railway police units have been bolstered and put on alert to deal with an expected influx of people from elsewhere in the nation traveling to Kaohsiung for the marches, he said.
Police would take strong action and arrest instigators of violence, while public prosecutors would be on standby at the police command center to handle cases immediately, he added.
Kaohsiung prosecutors urged people to behave peacefully and rationally, and to not incite or be provoked to commit violent acts, saying that police would be filming at all times to gather evidence and that justice would come down hard on agitators.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) called on the party’s members who plan on attending to maintain the peace, but added that they should focus campaign activities in their home districts.
“I strongly disagree with the Kaohsiung City Government approving two large rallies with very different political agendas at the same time,” Cho said.
People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), who is also running for president, expressed concern that the two sides are trains “about to collide head-on,” urging people to “not collide and not shed blood to avoid disgracing Taiwan on the world stage.”
“We must cherish Taiwan’s democracy and freedom, and use rational thinking to conduct this election,” he said.
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) issued a statement regarding the two rallies, urging “US citizens to exercise caution within the vicinity of rallies and demonstrations and, if possible, to avoid these areas completely... All US citizens considering visiting Kaohsiung on Dec. 21 should closely monitor local media outlets and government Web sites for the latest information.”
Asked about the warning, Han said that “it is natural for the AIT to look after its own citizens.”
“All my rallies are based on ‘happiness,’ so supporters will march in a joyful atmosphere and not create any conflict. I welcome everyone to join and mark one year of me as mayor,” he said.
Additional reporting by Tsai Ching-hua, Lin Kuo-hsien, Wang Chun-chi and Hsu Li-chuan
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