Free Speech In Taiwan

Taiwanese students in the U.S., trying to share these events in Taiwan with the world.

Action Statement from the “Wild Strawberry Movement”

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Originally posted in free speech in Taiwan

Action Statement from the “Wild Strawberry Movement”

Movement Origins
We are a group of university professors, students, cultural workers, and
citizens who are concerned about Taiwan’s current state of disorder and
future development. Over the past few days, we have seen numerous
instances of police overreaction and suppression, which have caused injury
to citizens exercising their right to free speech. Through reports in the
media, we have come to realize the seriousness of the current situation. It is
no longer a technical question of excessive law enforcement tactics, nor is it
simply a partisan issue between supporters of various political parties. This
is a proliferation of state sponsored violence that is challenging and
attacking civil society. Our concern over this state of affairs led us to
peacefully protest at the gates of the Executive Yuan, beginning at 11AM on
November 6. At 4PM on November 7, we were dispersed by the police. We
have since regrouped at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall , where we plan to
engage in a long term struggle.

Oppose Police Overreaction and the Suppression of Human Rights by the
Unconstitutional Assembly and Parade Law

Inappropriate acts taken by police in recent days include the following:
Forcibly shutting down major highways. Prohibiting citizens from waving the
national flag in public. Prohibiting citizens from stating that “Taiwan does
not belong to China” in public. Confiscating the personal property of
citizens, such as flags and signs with slogans. Forcibly detaining citizens
filming areas near the Grand Hotel with handheld camcorders, without
following due process. Preventing citizens from flying balloons protesting
toxic Chinese food products. Forcibly detaining citizens on a moped carrying
a Tibetan flag. Ordering the closure of a music store playing Taiwanese
music. The police have tried to justify these repressive actions by claiming
violations of the Assembly and Parade Law, the Social Order Maintenance
Law, and invoking the Regulations on Police Duties, while ignoring the fact
that their actions are in violation of the Constitution, Civil Law, and other
higher level laws guaranteeing the peoples’ free speech and property rights.
On the Importance of Personal Freedom
We believe in the importance of freedom. Imagine for a moment what
would have resulted had the government ordered the police to crack down
on the 2007 Red Shirt demonstration in front of the Presidential Office. The
citizens of Taiwan would not have had the opportunity to listen to other
opinions. It was only because they were not dispersed that different voices
could be heard. Only by being exposed to numerous different viewpoints,
can we learn how to determine for ourselves the quality of different
opinions. This is an essential requirement for a functioning civil society, and
illustrates the importance of free speech.
It is because free speech is so important that its protection is enshrined in
the Constitution. Other laws must support the Constitution, facilitating its
execution and specifying its limits. Despite this, the Assembly and Parade
Law – left over from the authoritarian days of martial law, gravely damages
the right to free speech. By requiring protesting citizens to acquire a permit
for a lawful demonstration, rather than simply notifying the government
beforehand, it allows protests to be declared illegal before they even take
place. Its excessive provisions for restricted areas off limits to protesters,
allows governmental organs to insulate themselves from being challenged by
public opinion. By granting the police excessive powers, it allows the police
to take the place of judges in a court of law.

Concrete Demands
Amend the Assembly and Parade Law
We provide the following suggestions for revising the Assembly and Parade
Law: (1) Change the current permit system to a notification system. The
government has no right to examine the peoples’ motivations beforehand,
and declare unfavorable demonstrations to be illegal before they even take
place; (2) Reexamine the current provisions for restricted areas.
Demonstrations and marches allow unarmed citizens without any other
means to make their grievances known and petition for redress. The current
restricted areas do not allow the people to challenge governmental
agencies; (3) Clarify permissible actions by the police in enforcing the law.
Do not grant a blank check for the police to exercise whatever methods they
see fit; (4) Make the new law an administrative law, rather then penal law.
Compared to other laws, the current Assembly and Parade Law calls for
heavier punishment for the same illegal actions, violating the principle of
Punish Police Personnel Engaging in Inappropriate Behavior
The recent clashes between the people and the police have left us with a
great sense of sorrow. We have been asked why we have not stood out to
condemn violent mob behavior. To this, we provide the following response:
We are determined to protect and support the people in freely expressing
their opinions, and condemn any and all acts of violence, be they from the
people or the police. From the many events of the past few days, we have
seen that while violent acts on the part of the people can be regulated by
law, law enforcement agencies can also abuse their power to justify
unlimited brutality without any appropriate restriction or regulation. It is
because of this that we condemn the government and the police for
increasingly ignoring the law, and for inappropriate use of force to violently
suppress the rights of the people to freely express their views. We request
that a full investigation be carried out to identify police officers who abused
their authority, and that appropriate punitive measures be taken.
Additionally, the directors of the police and national security agencies who
are ultimately responsible must step down.
President Ma must Apologize
The use of force by police is a symbol of state sponsored violence, and
should only be used when absolutely necessary to safeguard the rights of the
people to life, liberty, and property. Its use should never be employed
without the utmost care. However, police agencies are only passive
mechanisms that execute the orders issued to them. The positions and
directives of the government, as well as the ruling party, will directly
impact how rank and file police officers go about their duties. We condemn
the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou for trampling on the spirit of
freedom and democracy that are fundamental to the foundation of our
nation, and demand that he apologize.

Creating a movement of Civil Disobedience
We are a movement of civil disobedience initiated by students, and with
students as our core. When the government invokes the unconstitutional
Assembly and Parade Law, or abuses lawful governmental authority,
subsequent governmental actions are illegitimate. The people have a right
to refuse to obey illegitimate governmental actions. We hope that all people
who agree with our statement will join us in this movement to demand that
President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan apologize to all
citizens; that National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun and
National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chao-ming step down; and that the
Legislative Yuan immediately amend the Assembly and Parade Law so that it
does not threaten the rights of the people.
(Translated by Loren Chang,海天)

Written by freespeechintaiwan

November 10, 2008 at 6:36 am

Posted in 1

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3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for all of the great information. I am Taiwanese-American and I currently live in the US. I think that we should start our own movement abroad in the US and elsewhere to help this movement gain momentum. I am dismayed that the international press has not given this the publicity that it needs. As President Ma was American-educated, he should quite aware of how a democracy should function.

    Let me know what you think about pushing this movement internationally–technology and the convenience of communication is on our side. Any feedback/suggestions welcome, I will try to make it happen if people think it’s a good idea. Thanks and keep up the great work.


    November 13, 2008 at 11:25 am

  2. Support the Wild Strawberries!!

    Fight for the freedom of Taiwan- the future is in our hands.


    November 17, 2008 at 4:19 am

  3. Hi, thanks for leaving a message. I major Journalism in UT Austin, and I feel it’s really difficult for the press to run a story based on the request itself because it’s so domestic. I feel like the way they broadcasting their protest is the only thing the media will be interested in. And about freedom of speech.. I don’t know, if people in China or Singapore are fighting for freedom of speech, that will definitely be a good news because they doesn’t have too much now, but in Taiwan we really enjoy our freedom of speech…. I’m not sure whether media would want to cover it or not, especially when the number of attendants are delining. Email me and we can discuss if there is anything we can do. Thank you~


    November 17, 2008 at 9:29 pm

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