226 incident must be investigated

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

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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.

14 thoughts on “226 incident must be investigated

  1. Michael, I doubt the people involved are gangsters. I suspect they are government officials responsible for security during Chen Yunlin’s visit who may or may not be police. Their actions are certainly little different from gangsters though.

  2. This is concerning and serious. However, you’re implying that in the last 3 years under KMT Taiwan’s democracy is regressing. But I wonder, if that’s true. From the first free elections in 1996 and until now, we’ve seen a young democracy in a very divided nation struggling to survive and find its place next to a superpower, that constantly threats and meddles in its internal affairs. For me, Taiwan has never been a flawless democracy and this incident is just one of these things that keep on happening since the 1990s. I am concerned, of course, but I try to see the big picture here. And if you see things that way, you somehow survive this mad theater between DPP, KMT and CPP. Taiwan is not Sweden, nor Switzerland. Taiwan is Taiwan, I accept the country with all its flaws. I want it to be better, but I have no impact on this. I have no power, all I can do is observe and hope for the best. And I think most of us foreigners here are in the same situation. So for me, someone who’s a very idealistic democrat, it’s not always easy to look at these things knowing I can’t do anything. These kind of incidents are the consequence of the “status quo”, which the majority of Taiwanese support and want to keep as long as possible. Unless Taiwan is completely independent or completely under PRC, we will constantly have these kind of alarming incidents. I think most people still think it could be worse. That’s why they don’t do much to change it for the better.

  3. MKL,

    If you are a believer in democracy, don’t ever think that there is nothing you can do to help this society. Other than having the right to vote here, you could serve a stronger influence to the locals here by bringing up the concept of rational discussions, freedom of speech, responsibility and so on. You don’t have to be a citizen in order to become an influential figure.

    If you think about it extensively, even when it comes to election time, an indifferent voter can only cast 1 vote, while a person of influence can actually affect tens or more votes by speaking and persuading with a rational mind.

  4. MKL, I must disagree. You are right in identifying the issue of Taiwan’s status and relatively new democracy as being a factor in this problem. However, there is no reason to accept these kind of incidents as an unavoidable consequence of the status quo. There is no reason that Taiwan cannot be as good as Sweden or Switzerland. Taiwan is a wealthy country whose people have high levels of education. All the institutions necessary to support democracy and the rule of law exist. The only thing that stands in the way is the attitude that people must accept things the way they are and have no power to change them.

  5. This is what I’ve been doing and this what others can do: Talking to people about this incident, seeing if they’ve heard about it. If they have, letting them know why it concerns me. If not, giving some background without trying to be preachy. Some of the people you speak to will try to learn more about it, or mention it to their friends.

  6. This is a bit off-topic, but my boyfriend is currently serving as an MP in the army here in Taiwan. During his police training, his instructors brought up Zhang Mingqing, vice chairman of Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) (who was confronted by pro-Taiwan protesters in 2008 in Tainan and fell backwards as a result). Zhang was held up by these instructors in the ROC army as 1) proof that pro-green protesters are violent (what a joke!) 2) the kind of Chinese officials that he, as an MP in the ROC army, would have to protect in the future!!

    This is totally anecdotal, of course. But you have to wonder if this subtle messaging somehow also fits in with the use of plainclothes “policemen” and other gangsters as part of the changes the KMT have been bringing about these past 3 years!!

  7. David,

    I agree that Taiwan could improve on many levels, no doubt about it. But at the same time I feel powerless, I have no influence. Even talking to few friends won’t do much. Every time I talk to my gf (she’s not a supporter of the current government) and tell her about all these incidents, she just shrugs. She says we can’t do anything, only hope that next year DPP wins. I can’t say I have a lot of friends here in Taiwan, but those young people I know are not interested in discussing politics openly. Unless you know your friend is same color, it’s actually taboo to discuss these things. And I just follow. I think until only English speaking bloggers write about these things, it won’t have a real impact. I know young Taiwanese are capable of creating a movement, look what happened when Yang Shu-chun was disqualified, the Anti-Korea movement was pretty scary. I would hope that they would use this type of energy for something good. I still hope they will, if necessary. For now it seems, people are swallowing many bitter pills and living their lives, focusing on their personal things. And I’m trying to do the same.

  8. Steven, I posted this on my blog so the incident could be more widely known. There is also a video showing what happened so the basic facts of the case are clear.

    Eric, thanks for the anecdote. I am sure it is not an isolated case.

  9. Not catching up much current affairs since I left Taipei in 1992, but I have to say: to give Taiwanese more time, I believe it will be changed.

    I’m in my 40s and in the past we have been tought that the way we should be for the great benefit of a country. I look back and see the way young adults have been through for recent years, I think it has changed and slowly we will understand the democracy may need be exchanged with few booldy experience.
    Could I post this blog to 裸讀世界’s facbook where a form that a bunch of people can be discussed with

    Thanks

  10. alice, it is fine to repost this article. Most of it is a translation anyway so you might also like to post the original text.

  11. Dear David, this is about the “death penalty.” The commenting feature of the most recent death penalty article in this blog seems to be closed so I post it here, something you might already knew:

    http://www.epochtimes.com.au/b5/11/3/5/n3188375.htm

    in which it describes that if a question of “life without parole” is asked during a poll, the percentage of supporting the death penalty will no longer be the majority.

  12. Echo, thanks for the link. I have seen similar results quoted elsewhere. Comments on posts are closed after 30 days. That’s why you couldn’t leave a comment on the earlier post about the death penalty.

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