A Taichung City policeman was penalized yesterday for using pepper spray on two protesters on Sunday night, but the police said his demerit was for carrying non-standard equipment rather than for assaulting the protesters, adding that he acted in self-defense.
Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) apologized for the incident and promised to look into the matter.
Hu has pledged to step down if any civilians are injured because of police misconduct under his watch.
The Taichung City Police Bureau said police officer Sung Kuo-tong (宋國棟) was part of a detail dispatched to disperse a crowd of pro-independence supporters protesting the fourth round of cross-strait talks after a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rally ended on Sunday night.
The protesters, led by Taiwan Association of University Professors chairman Tsai Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴), reportedly attempted to barge into the fenced-off area around the Winsdor Hotel where the Chinese delegation is staying during its five-day visit.
A physical altercation occurred when police tried to disperse the crowd, a police press release said, adding that fourth precinct deputy chief Lu Chin-lung (盧進隆) was hit in the neck by a protester’s placard during the scuffle.
The statement said that Sung, a self-defense instructor, was trying protect his superior and himself when he used the pepper spray on the protesters.
The two people, one of whom was Tsai’s wife, sustained minor eye injuries and were released from hospital after treatment.
The police agreed that Sung was in the wrong for carrying pepper spray, which is not standard police equipment, but said his actions were in self-defense.
Sung was penalized for carrying non-standard equipment and has been removed from the assignment.
The DPP yesterday offered free legal assistance to the two individuals if they choose to sue over the incident.
DPP Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), who is heading the DPP’s ad-hoc emergency response center, advised all protesters to carry a cellphone or video-recording device at all times to collect evidence on any provocative actions of the part of the police.
“Taiwan is a free democratic country with freedom of speech being the most important value. All people are entitled to speak freely. The police have zero excuse to shortchange the people’s right to express themselves,” Su said.
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