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September 23, 2017

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Violence mars another public hearing

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Physical altercations erupted outside the third regional public hearing on pension reforms Sunday in Kaohsiung, where over a thousand police were stationed to keep demonstrators at bay.

A day after chaos broke outside Taichung's public hearing on Saturday, Kaohsiung police shut down streets, set up roadblocks and stood guard outside the third regional meeting as a precaution.

Around 2 p.m., when the public hearing was scheduled to begin, hundreds of labor group protesters brandished banners and marched toward the police stationed outside the venue.

Shouting "We want to attend the meeting," the demonstrators attempted to break through the wall of police but were blocked from entering despite waves of physical conflict.

Several of the demonstrators leading the charge on the front line were holding invitations to the public hearing in their hands, local media reported.

Protests and scuffles broke out sporadically around noon, hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin, with several protesters gathered outside police-monitored venue entrances and exits to block meeting attendees from entering.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Liu Shih-fang was reportedly shouted at by protesters, who flung accusations like, "(How) can you represent us (in the meeting)?"Liu unsuccessfully attempted to pacify the protesters by repeatedly bowing.

Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun accused the Kaohsiung government of setting up razor-blade fences to bar the people from the public hearing on the first floor, the United Daily reported.

Kaohsiung Police Department denied the accusation in a statement released late Sunday evening, saying that such fences had been stripped of blades and had not been constructed to block demonstrators.

President Speaks from Abroad

President Tsai Ing-wen, though far from Taiwanese soil on her state trip to Central America, responded yesterday to the events that unfolded.

According to DPP Legislator Karen Yu's Facebook post, who is part of Tsai's delegation, Tsai told Taiwanese expats at an evening banquet in Houston that the pension reforms were being carried out to ensure that eligible pensioners would be able to receive their benefits rather be let down by a bankrupt fund.

Earlier, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang told press corps aboard the president's charter flight that Tsai had been closely following the developments of the government's regional pension reform public hearings.

KMT Lodges Complaint Over Police Actions

KMT Culture and Communications Committee Deputy Chairman Hu Wen-chi called out on the Tsai administration of using "razor blades and wire fences" to block Taiwanese citizens from entering the regional pension reform public hearing in Taichung on Saturday.

He accused the government of "completely unwilling to communicate with the people."

"The government simply has treated Taiwanese people like mobs or IS terrorists."

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