On the evening of 26 February a group of Taiwanese university students in Taipei went out to show their support for the Jasmine Revolution in China. While attempting to cross the road they were blocked from crossing by a group of plain-clothes people claiming to be police officers. The video embedded above shows the incident. The Taipei Times has also reported on the incident.
The students involved in the incident have established the “226 Students Self-Help Group” (226學生自救小組) and have created a blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. I have translated the description of the event from the 226 students’ blog below.
On the evening of 26 February a group of students supporting the Jasmine Revolution in China headed to Taipei’s Xinyi District in the hope of sending a message supporting democratisation and political reform in China to the Chinese government representative Chen Yunlin. At around nine o’clock about 20 students from National Taiwan University, Tsing Hua University, National Chengchi University and Tunghai University encountered and were blocked by about 40 people, believed to plain-clothes police officers, who did not clearly identify themselves. Then a violent verbal and physical conflict occurred which resulted in one student suffering bruising to the head and arm. This group of unclearly identified police were clearly acting against the Police Duties Enforcement Act by not wearing a uniform and not producing identification. Furthermore they did not give the three warnings required under the Parade and Assembly Law and just encircled the students. They also made threats that all the students would be arrested. No matter whether they are police or not, why did the government engage in violent actions in the middle of the busy eastern district of Taipei?
The entire event was captured on video by the students and has been uploaded to the internet. The link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-vr0k0qWdo
During this incident that occurred at the corner of Songshou and Songren roads, the students asked who are these people claiming to be police officers but not wearing uniforms? From the beginning to the end they resisted showing their identification badges or telling their police identification number. They also had no identifying marks or symbols on their clothing. Yet throughout the event they acted towards the students as if they were exercising police powers. If they really were police why didn’t they show their identification? Those plain-clothes people acted illegally. They also created a wall preventing the students’ free movement and they singled out students for intimidation. When the students tried to cross the zebra crossing the plain-clothes people violently attacked them and made verbal threats. What makes us most angry is that these plain-clothes people claiming to be police forcefully dragged and pulled the students crossing the road. One student was forcefully pushed down and injured. At the same time they unceasingly made threats such as “We’ll arrest all of you,” and “You don’t want to try it on too much.” They threatened, “You’ve made us start collecting evidence.” They demanded that the students show their ID card and said, “You’ve already broken the Parade and Assembly Law.” When the students asked why they hadn’t given a clear warning according to the Assembly Law, they gave no positive answer. At the same time pedestrians were coming and going. It was clear that the area wasn’t a controlled area as only the group of students was prevented from moving.
Due the plain-clothes people claiming to be police refusing to show identification from start to finish, the students at the scene said they couldn’t comprehend how this group of people had any legitimacy under the law. Even if they really were police they couldn’t act in this way towards the people which was against the law and infringing on human rights. They improperly blocked, interrogated, threatened and acted violently. They even prevented the students from simply crossing the road. When using the Assembly Law they didn’t follow the procedures or act in a reasonable manner. From early on they seriously violated the Police Duties Enforcement Act and exceeded the legal authority of the police.
On the night these events occured the students mentioned in this statement had no illegal intentions or actions. However, they met these group of people claiming to be police who didn’t clearly identify themselves. In the context of a free, democratic and open Taiwan this is a major public security and judicial incident. We hope that the relevant authorities can quickly open a special investigation. When the truth has been ascertained and announced the people who are responsible should apologise and accept punishment in order to give back a sense of fairness and justice to the students and the greater society.
It is now more than two years since Chen Yunlin first visited Taiwan. Chen’s first visit shone a spotlight on police abusing their powers and gave rise to the Wild Strawberry Movement. However, since that time there has been no reform of the Parade and Assembly Law nor have police been held accountable for human rights transgressions.
While the scale of protests against Chen Yunlin have diminished with each visit, the police have been unrelenting in restricting the rights of the people to protest and freely express their opinions. Another disturbing event occurred during Chen Yunlin’s just completed visit to Taiwan. In Yunlin County a group of men in black shirts, suspected to be gang members, were present when Chen Yunlin visited a university.
The KMT government of Ma Ying-jeou has been in office for almost three years now. It is clear that the more and more the government engages with China, the more and more it adopts China’s authoritarian methods. Some people naively hope that Taiwan can encourage democracy in China. However, on the present evidence it seems that China is encouraging authoritarianism in Taiwan.