The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday rebutted accusations from the Taiwan Society and others that it was breaching freedom of expression by issuing a letter of inquiry to the group that organized a major rally held last Saturday.
The rally drew tens of thousands of participants protesting the government’s cross-strait policies, and called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, save the economy and help to accelerate the adoption of “sunshine bills.”
“We received a letter from the MOI on Monday saying that someone filed a complaint with them that said [the Taiwan Society] may have violated the Civil Associations Act [人民團體法] by organizing the Aug. 30 rally and asked them to reply within 10 days,” Taiwan Society secretary-general Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) told the Taipei Times via telephone.
The person who filed the complaint said the Taiwan Society may have violated the law because the organization is registered as a social group, which could mean it may not engage in political activities.
“But we applied and received a rally permit from the appropriate government agencies, and the purpose of the rally was about social interests,” Lo said. “Rallies are a way for people to express their opinions. What the MOI is doing to us makes us feel that they’re trying to get revenge.”
The Democratic Progressive Party’s Department of Culture and Information director Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) also criticized the MOI, saying that “It is ridiculous to say that a social group may not hold rallies on political themes — there is simply no such restriction in the Civil Associations Act.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Justin Chou (周守訓) echoed the view, and said that the way the ministry was handling the complaint would “remind people of the authoritarian rule during the White Terror.”
In response, director of the ministry’s Department of Social Affairs Tseng Chung-ming (曾中明) told a press conference yesterday afternoon that asking for an explanation from the Taiwan Society was just part of standard procedure.
“We understand that our friends at the Taiwan Society may not feel very comfortable after receiving the letter, however, we ask for your understanding that handling complaints from people is an unavoidable responsibility of the Department of Social Affairs,” Tseng said.
However, Tseng also said that there may have been some problems with the way the issue was handled.
“We will humbly accept criticism and opinions from all, and will take care of similar issues more flexibly to meet public expectations,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG
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