An inconclusive outcome of a recent meeting between the Taipei Police Department and the city government’s Public Works Department on the issue of road applications for protests was panned by the National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories, which said the police department was “reluctant” to simplify the application process.
Late last month, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) instructed both agencies to look into simplifying the application process for protests to convene and demonstrate due to the line of applicants often seen to the right side of City Hall ahead of elections or during protests over certain issues.
Standing regulations state that applicants apply at the New Construction Office for rights to use the roads at the designated time before filing an application to demonstrate with the Taipei Police Department, which would then notify both the applicant and the New Construction Office if the application is approved. The entire process can take up to nine days.
When the two agencies met on Thursday last week to resolve the issue, New Construction Office Director Huang Chih-feng proposed that all applications be handled by the police department, which should then notify the office when a decision is made, adding that the entire process could be shortened to three days if his proposal was accepted.
Taipei Police Department Secretary-General Huang Chih-tse (黃啟澤) objected, stating that under the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法), congregation on roads must be approved by a managerial unit.
The New Construction Office is responsible for the roads in Taipei, Huang Chi-tse said, adding that there might be legal concerns should the police department take over the authorization process.
Public Works Department Director Peng Chen-sheng (彭振聲) said that in accordance with the Act Regulating Taipei City Urban Road Management (台北市市區道路管理規則), repairs and maintenance of roads, traffic order and road safety were the joint responsibilities of both the department and the Taipei Police Department.
If legal amendments changed the definition of congregation and demonstration as part of maintaining traffic order and road safety it would provide a solution to the problem, Peng said.
Alliance member Lu Chi (盧其) said the inconclusive outcome of the meeting would only serve to drag out the application process and decrease the likelihood of the applications being approved. Lu panned the police department’s indecision and called for Ko to preside over meetings to simplify the process as soon as possible.
The police department said that heightened tension between the public and police might cause the public to doubt the neutrality of the police department if it takes over the application process for demonstrations and rights to use roads.
The situation might lead to members of the public staging protests in front of the police department due to application refusals, the police department said, adding that it hoped the New Construction Office would continue to help facilitate matters.
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