Ma tells the central government to back off
Jane Rickards, The China Post Tuesday, April 6, 2004, 12:00 am TWN
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou yesterday insisted that the central government had no right to ask the Taipei City government to retract an approval for a massive opposition rally to be held this Saturday outside the presidential office.
The DPP-controlled central government in response urged the KMT's Ma to reconsider allowing the demonstration to go ahead in view of the violence that broke out between protesters and police before dawn on Sunday.
Ma responded to cabinet's Sunday request to retract the rally by saying that only local governments had the legal right to give permits to demonstrations and the central government had no right to make such a demand.
"If the Cabinet wants the city government to think carefully and reconsider it, we will do so," Ma told reporters yesterday. "But it cannot ask us to retract approval for the demonstration. It has no right."
Cabinet spokesman Lin Chia-lung warned in response that Ma would shoulder all the consequences should there be bloodshed or if the rally got out of control.
"Ma should take responsibility and not let blood shed occur at the rally," said Lin.
"If he permits the rally, he should give a guarantee that it concludes peacefully. If he cannot guarantee this, he should not permit it."
"Ma will face the political consequences," Lin said, pointing out as an example that Minister of Interior Yu Cheng-hsien had just resigned over failing to solve the mystery over the assassination attempt.
The Cabinet sent the Taipei City government a formal letter last night saying the violent incidents at the Central Election Commission that occurred when President Chen's election victory was announced, along with the protests early Sunday morning which saw scattered violent incidents and the rally led by James Soong and Lien Chan a week after the presidential election which went well into the night and past the appointed finishing time had seriously harmed social stability and public order.
Ma was also told in the letter that these incidents also impeded economic development and were a serious and negative influence on society.
Ma said on Sunday that only the police could approve a permit to the coming rally and he could not tell the police what to do.
In response, last night's letter said Ma "and the appropriate authorities" had the power to override the police in the case of disasters to protect social order, and that the conditions of the permit for the demonstration could be changed or approval for the demonstration could be retracted altogether.
It urged Ma to exercise his authority over the police and reconsider allowing the demonstration to go ahead.
Ma yesterday said that the scattered violent incidents that occurred in the protest outside the Presidential Office at dawn on Sunday occurred after the opposition pan-blue organizers had left the day before at 5.30 p.m. when they formally ended the protest.
Ma said the violent incidents therefore were constituted as the actions of individuals.
Opposition politicians and protest organizers could not be held responsible for the violence that occurred afterwards in the eyes of the law, Ma said, referring to legislation governing demonstrations and protests.
Lin Chia-lung said the central government would fully support Ma's decision, but added: "These requests in the letter are not asking too much or are not over the top. They are just to remind him."
Lin told reporters yesterday that the Cabinet was using soft tactics to remind Ma not to let the demonstration get out of control.
Lin said that the central government was willing to give Ma all the support he needed to control the protest
The KMT's Ma yesterday used unusually strong language to criticize the central government, saying that the central government in its treatment of the hunger-striking students was turning Taiwan into a police state.
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