Rights advocates criticized New Taipei City police officers for entering a church in pursuit of migrant workers suspected of a crime, saying the officers infringed on churchgoers’ rights and the church’s role as a spiritual sanctuary.
On May 28, police officers from the Shulin Precinct spotted three people while on patrol who they suspected to be members of a fraud ring sent to pick up money.
The officers said in a statement on Monday that they saw the three people run into the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Shulin District (樹林) and followed them in.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
A mass was under way at the time, the statement said.
Surveillance footage showed the officers chasing three people up a staircase before they caught and arrested one.
The other two suspects got away, the footage showed.
Peter Nguyen Van Hung, director of the Vietnamese Migrant and Immigrant Office of the Catholic Church’s Hsinchu Diocese, on Monday criticized the actions of the officers and reiterated his stance at a news conference yesterday.
While preaching at the church on May 28, officers chased migrant workers to the second floor without informing the church or gaining permission to enter, he said.
He called on the National Human Rights Commission and the National Police Agency to say whether the officers’ behavior was acceptable.
Chien Chang-jung (簡長榮), director of the Labor Concern Center at the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, said that the officers’ approach was “brutal.”
Faith is a shelter and a source of inner peace for many migrant workers in Taiwan, Chien said.
The incident runs counter to Taiwan’s image as a bastion of freedom and democracy, and law enforcement agents should review whether the matter could have been handled differently, he said.
Lennon Wang (汪英達), director of policies on migrant workers at the Serve the People Association, said that the actions of the officers contravened freedom of thought, conscience and religion as defined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Taiwan has incorporated into its domestic law.
The actions also ran contrary to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, he said.
The police statement said that the officers did not know before the arrest that the man was a migrant worker, they did not enter the main part of the church where the mass was being held and the arrest was not conducted in view of the congregation.
The arrested man was a Vietnamese migrant worker who had left his employer, but he had no known connections to fraud rings, it said.
They have yet to determine the details of the other two people, police said.
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