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Police show relative moderation when dispersing crowd: scholar

TAIPEI--A local scholar defended the government's eviction of protesters who stormed the Executive Yuan compound Sunday, saying that criticism of the crackdown reflected a lack of understanding of the practices of Western democracies.

When trying to disperse the crowd in the early hours of Monday, the police did not initially fire water cannons but instead used them as a last resort, said Chen I-hsin (陳一新), a professor in Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of the Americas.

The police demonstrated “relative moderation” in enforcing the law, he said. If water cannons had been used earlier, he said, there would have been fewer clashes.

Demonstrators in the United States or Spain would have experienced much tougher policing measures, said Chen, who specializes in the U.S. government system and theories of political science.

If local media outlets critical of the way the hundreds of protesters were treated knew more about international practices, he said, they would know that authorities in other democratic countries would not tolerate illegal behavior in demonstrations.

The protesters who broke into the Executive Yuan compound and its main building clearly violated the law, Chen said.

The police spent several hours clearing the compound of protesters who stormed the complex Sunday evening, leading to charges of excessive use of force by certain media outlets and in online forums as well as opposition politicians.

Some compared the police action to the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, in which Chinese soldiers backed by tanks fired on the protestors, killing hundreds of people.

In a press conference after Monday's police action, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said such a comparison was a “gross distortion” of reality.

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