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.

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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

Freedom House report released in Taipei

Freedom House Map of Freedom for Asia in 2009. Green represents free, yellow partly free and purple not free.

Freedom House released its Freedom in the World 2009 report with a press conference at the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei today. The event was hosted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. The 2009 report found a decline in global freedom for the third consecutive year. Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet states were the regions that saw the greatest decline. There was some improvement in freedom in South Asia.

Freedom House’s rankings are based on assessments of political rights and civil liberties. Scores range from one to seven with one being the most free. The average of the score for political rights and civil liberties determines whether a country is classified as free, partly free or not free. Countries such as Finland and Sweden rate the highest with scores of one for both categories. Sudan, Burma and North Korea rank the lowest with scores of seven in both categories. More details of the rankings for each country can be downloaded from Freedom House’s website. Taiwan’s score was the same as last year with a score of two for political rights and one for civil liberties for an overall rating of “free”. Continue reading

Wild Berry House opening

Students and supporters of the Wild Strawberry Movement celebrated the opening of Wild Berry House (野莓之家) in Taipei today. The office, located near Guting MRT Station in Taipei City, will serve as the new headquarters for the movement. The student’s round the clock sit in protest at Freedom Square ended on 4 January after almost two months.

An opinion piece in today’s Taipei Times erroneously suggests, “The Wild Strawberry Student Movement has gradually come to an end after being treated indifferently by the politically influenced media.” The Wild Strawberries certainly have not come to an end, just the beginning of a new chapter. Expect the determination that the students showed in their two month long protest at Freedom Square to be applied in new ways as the movement continues.

In related news, Freedom House is releasing its annual report “Freedom in the World 2009” at a press conference in Taipei at 9:00 am on Tuesday 13 January. You can watch it live on the Wild Strawberry Movement’s webcast channel at www.justin.tv/action1106.

Police, the law and human rights

Police take away the “Democracy classroom” on Christmas Eve in Taipei City

A letter I wrote about police and human rights was published in the Taipei Times today.

In the letter I mention that I have witnessed incidents before and after Chen Yunlin’s visit. The incident before was at the Car Free Day activity in Taipei County on 20 September. The main incident after was on Christmas Eve in Taipei City. Students from the Wild Strawberry Movement were involved in an incident with police from the Zhongzheng No. 2 Police Station (中正第二分局). I have not written about this on my blog but you can see some photos at flickr. Reports in Chinese of the events of that day can be found on the Wild Strawberry Movement’s blog and on page A5 of the Liberty Times (自由時報), 25 December 2008. The Taipei Times also reported on 26 December that the Wild Strawberries plan to take legal action against the police in relation to the incident.

Sounds of freedom

A Tibet Freedom Concert was held at Da’an Park in Taipei on Human Rights Day. The concert was headlined by Tibetan folk musician Techung and also included videos and speeches about human rights and the situation in Tibet.

SFT Executive Director Lhadon Tethong spoke about the importance of the Tibetans struggle for freedom and human rights. She thanked the Taiwanese people for the support they have given the Tibetan people. She expressed the hope that the Taiwanese people would not lose their freedom like the Tibetans had lost theirs. Lhadon is currently on a speaking tour visiting university campuses in Taiwan. NCCU Professor Sun Da-chuan spoke about the situation of indigenous peoples in Taiwan. 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

Wild Strawberries take to the streets

Over the past month the Wild Strawberry movement (野草莓學運) has attracted support from a wide cross section of Taiwanese society. Dressed in black t-shirts and sporting pink headbands, students and supporters converged at Freedom Square for a march through the streets of Taipei today. Originally a thousand people were expected to participate, however the crowd exceeded that number by many times#.

The protest assembled at Freedom Square were students spoke about the attacks on human rights that led to the protest action. Protesters arranged in groups with students taking the lead, followed by university professors, NGOs and the general public. The protest began marching north along Zhongshan Road. Continue reading