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. Continue reading

Court questions constitutionality of Assembly Law

The Taipei District Court has suspended a case involving Lee Ming-tsung (李明聰), an NTU assistant professor and one of the initiators of the Wild Strawberry Movement (野草莓學運), who was charged under the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法). The judge said a constitutional interpretation of the law was necessary before a verdict could be made in the case. Taiwan Today reports:

The Taipei District Court has ordered the trial of a National Taiwan University academic charged with violating the Assembly and Parade Act halted pending constitutional interpretation of several articles contained within the law.

The court found that proceedings against Lee Ming-tsung, an assistant professor of sociology at NTU, could not continue as the act infringes on a citizen’s freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the ROC Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Continue reading

Assembly Law attacks freedom of speech

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights (台灣人權促進會; TAHR) and Forum Asia have released a joint statement calling on Taiwan to respect and protect freedom of assembly by dropping charges against two prominent human rights defenders and amend the Parade and Assembly Law (集會遊行法) in accordance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The two human rights defenders are Lin Chia-fan (林佳範), President of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), and Lee Ming-tsung (李明聰), Vice-Chairperson of Amnesty International (AI) Taiwan and assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at NTU. Lee and Lin were charged under Article 29 of the Parade and Assembly Law for their involvement in two separate protests in November 2008. Lee was involved in a sit-in outside the Executive Yuan on 6-7 November that marked the beginning of the Wild Strawberry Movement (野草莓學運). Lin led a demonstration at the Legislative Yuan on 19 November calling for amendments to the Parade and Assembly Law. Continue reading

517: DPP reclaim the streets

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Hundreds of thousands# of people took to the streets of Taipei and Kaohsiung today for the DPP’s 517 rally. The rally marked the one year anniversary of President Ma Ying-jeou taking office. During this time there has been the financial crisis, rising unemployment and concerns that closer ties to China were at the expense of Taiwan’s sovereignty. The event had four themes: safeguarding sovereignty, referendum on ECFA, help for the unemployed and assisting the disadvantaged.

In the days before the protest the DPP created an English language blog (perhaps in response to this criticism). A translation of Tsai Ing-wen’s open letter on the blog provides a clear and eloquent explanation of the rationale for the march. Sometimes the slogans are overly simplistic and don’t fully communicate the issues. Continue reading

Su Beng still going strong

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An article by Michael Richardson in the Boston Progressive Examiner includes a photo of Su Beng (史明) that I took during a protest against the amendments to the Parade and Assembly Law on Monday. The article begins, “Any reports of Su Beng being retired from his long activism for Taiwan independence are mistaken. The 92 year-old activist is still going strong”.

If you want to know more about Su Beng then check the Felicia’s blog, All About Su Beng. Felicia is writing Su Beng’s biography. In response to a question about why she chose to write about Su Beng she writes:

To me Su Beng is significant because he is one of the earliest people to have fought for the cause of Taiwan independence. He is someone who has not veered from his ideals or become corrupt by power over the years. There have been some political activists, who have entered mainstream politics and have somehow become corrupt by power or personal interest.

[…]

he was one of the first native Taiwanese to write about Taiwan’s history from a Taiwan-centric point of view. Before that, Taiwan was always written about as, or considered to be a part of China or Chinese history. His book “Taiwan’s 400 Years of History” influenced a generation of intellectuals who began to see and realize that Taiwan had its own unique history and culture, it made them think about what Taiwan was and what it meant to be Taiwanese and have a Taiwanese identity.

Su Beng’s life story really is extraordinary. His story in many ways mirrors Taiwan’s ongoing struggle.

Freedom of assembly is a basic right

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 20:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

ROC Constitution (de facto constitution of Taiwan) Article 14 :

The people shall have freedom of assembly and of association.

International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights Article 21:

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

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On 31 March the Legislative Yuan ratified two international covenants on rights including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The purpose of this document is to more clearly explain how the rights expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be protected under the law. Continue reading

Assembly Law amendments restrict rights

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A group of Taiwanese NGOs held a press conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei this morning to criticise the proposed amendments to the Parade and Assembly Law (集會遊行法). A-gu has a recent post explaining the law and the amendments. The Legislative Yuan will vote on the amendments tomorrow. Continue reading

Music without borders

Musicians, human rights activists and Wild Strawberries came together for a “Music trumps nationality, human rights knows no borders” concert at Freedom Square (自由廣場) in Taipei last night. Human rights activists from Afghanistan, Nepal and Hong Kong spoke about the importance of human rights and issues in their countries.

The concert was organised to bring people together because human rights are universal regardless of nationality or borders. Event organiser Lynn Miles said, “Tonight we are all citizens in the global village.” He asked members of the crowd from abroad to come and put a candle on the place they were born on the map of the world with no borders. Taiwanese people were asked to put candles on a place they cared about. Continue reading