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September 21, 2017

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Tainan mayor urges citizens to remain calm over statue dispute

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德), a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), yesterday urged people to remain calm over a recent incident in which members of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan toppled a statue of the Republic of China's founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) in Tainan (台南).

The statue, previously located in Thng Tek-chiong Memorial Park in Tainan City, was pulled down on Saturday. Following the incident the city government cordoned off the park with police tape.

Kuomintang (KMT) city councilors and supporters gathered at the park yesterday to demand that the city repair the statue and urged Lai to apologize for the incident. However, they were stopped by police from entering the park, and physical altercations occurred between KMT supporters and police officers.

KMT City Councilor Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介) and Tainan City Police Department Second Precinct Chief Lee Cheng-hsiao (李政曉) were seen scuffling, with Hsieh yelling "the police hit me." Lee suffered several abrasions on his arms, according to the Central News Agency.

Hsieh later told local press that members of the pro-independence group had violently damaged a Tainan City public asset, and not only did police fail to protect it, but they also let the violators leave the scene without questioning them.

Hsieh stressed, however, that the police treated rational Tainan citizens like it was still the martial law period, stating that he would undergo a medical examination and then press charges against Lee.

Lee noted that after the statue was damaged, the Tainan City Public Works Bureau forbade people from entering the park temporarily, stressing that police officers were just cooperating with city policy and acted in accordance with laws.

KMT City Councilor Lu Kun-fu (盧崑福) said a democratic society has zero tolerance for violence, noting that people should respect "multiple cultures," and even if the pro-independence groups oppose the founding father's statue, they should respect other people's opinions about it.

In August 2013, Tainan City proposed moving the statue from the park to a different location, which caused controversy. At that time, Hsieh organized an event to protect the statue by asking supporters to camp in the park.

Lai said whether people support or are against moving the statue, they are approaching the issue with different "political ideologies." He said he disagrees with the KMT's previous actions of "occupying the park" to protect the statue and also opposes people taking aggressive action to pull it down.

Lai urged people to remain calm and settle the issue in a rational manner, noting that polarization and disputes do not help the city's development.

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