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Privacy law clouds police investigations: lawmaker

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) said yesterday that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) misquoted the newly created privacy law and prohibited people from gathering their own evidence during a police investigation.

The Kaohsiung police recently issued a ticket to a citizen for riding a modified motorcycle. The man used a cellphone to record the investigation process but was stopped by the police due to a possible violation of the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) and interference with a police investigation.

The Kaohsiung police explained that based on the MOJ's instructions regarding the privacy law, if a person is involved in a case and wants to collect evidence, the person should acquire consent from police because officials have a right to privacy too.

The incident has stirred up controversy as Wu said the MOJ's instructions were not clear and have restrained citizens' right to gather evidence. Wu demanded the MOJ withdraw the instructions and offer a more definite explanation of the act in 10 days.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen chu (陳菊) said that it is a fundamental human right for people involved in criminal cases to collect and ensure the safety of evidence without interfering with a police investigation. Authorities should respect citizens' rights, Chen said.

In response to the incident, the MOJ said that based on current laws, people cannot comment on ongoing criminal cases. The ministry further stated that citizens are not allowed to make recordings at a crime scene during an investigation. However, the MOJ said, citizens can record police investigation activities in public places.

Officials at the Tainan City Police Station said that if a person does not obstruct an investigation, the police will respect the citizen's right to gather evidence; nevertheless, the citizen cannot disclose the evidence publicly due to the confidentiality of the investigation.

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