Is Taiwan becoming a police state?
When I wrote about Chen Yunlin’s arrival in Taiwan on Monday I said, “it might be a little extreme to claim Taiwan has returned to the days of martial law or White Terror.” Perhaps I might have to take back my words. What the police is doing is going far beyond what is necessary to ensure the security of Chen Yunlin. It seems the police in Taipei are actively supressing citizen’s basic rights to freedom of speech.
I have co-written a post at Global Voices with Portnoy detailing some of the responses to the police actions from the blogosphere. There is sure to be much more written on the blogs over the next few days. What follows is to provide more detail and explanation.
One well documented incident occurred on Monday. Three women carrying Tibetan and ROC flags were stopped by police on Zhongshan North Road. They were then detained without charge. One of the women had her finger broken. You can view amateur video and news reports of the incident here and here. The report of one of the women involved, CoffeeShop is on her blog (中文). The reason the women were held without charge is because carrying the flag of any country is not a crime in Taiwan. The illegal actions here were carried out by the police.
This is one of several incidents that indicate the police are making systematic attacks on the display of ROC flags and expression of opinion by individuals and small groups. It should be noted that these actions are being carried out by police in the area around the Grand Hotel and other places in Taipei that Chen Yunlin is visiting. The TAUP organised hunger strike and DPP rally is going on in Jinan Road next to the Legislative Yuan with only a low key police presence. The ROC flags are still flying on the fence around the Legislative Yuan. It is obviously one place that is not on Chen Yunlin’s itinerary.
It is not just ordinary people that are experiencing the harsh actions of the police. Police have also clashed with journalists. The Taipei Times reports:
Cheng Chieh-wen (鄭傑文), a photojournalist affiliated with the Central News Agency (CNA), was dragged away by national security agents at the Grand Hotel on Sunday while he was standing within the designated press area.
The Taipei Times also details restrictions being placed on journalists. And a documentary maker who gave her name as “Miss Chen” was detained by police for videoing while visiting a friend at the Grand Hotel. Last month Reporters without Borders ranked Taiwan 36th in the 2008 Index of Press Freedom, the second freest country in Asia. However, with actions like this it seems Taiwan will rapidly slip down the list.
Another indication of just how crazy things have become relates to an incident were police prevented a music shop from playing a CD titled “Songs of Taiwan” near a hotel where Chen Yunlin was visiting. There is a report (中文) in the Liberty Times (link via A-gu). [Update: English-language report in the Taipei Times]. This is like the actions of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.
What has happened to the free and democratic nation of Taiwan? Will the government admit its mistakes and apologise to the people? Or will it just continue to trample on human rights and the rule of law until everyone is too afraid to dissent? These are undoubtedly the darkest days Taiwan has faced in two decades.