Dapu protesters could face criminal charges
By Joseph Yeh The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Police have collected evidence on protesters who occupied a government building earlier this week and could press charges against them if their behavior is deemed to have violated the law, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said yesterday.
August 22, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
“We respect protesters' right to freedom of expression and gathering; however, we will not tolerate those protesters who violated the law,” Lee told reporters yesterday.
Taipei police have begun a probe into the Aug. 18 and 19 demonstration and sit-in protests in the capital, Lee said.
Authorities will definitely press charges against protesters who are found to have damaged public property during the demonstration or violated the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法), he added.
Hundreds of protesters on early Monday occupied a government building to protest land expropriation across the country, in particular the demolition of four homes in Miaoli County's Dapu Village.
During their sit-in at the entrance of the Ministry of the Interior's (MOI) headquarters, protesters sprayed slogans and put stickers on the building walls and the pavement.
Some protesters even splashed water on Deputy Interior Minister Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇) while he was speaking to them on behalf of Lee on Monday.
Hsiao, however, said Tuesday that he “doesn't mind” the actions, and would not press charges against the demonstrators.
The protesters chose to paralyze the operations of the MOI because it was the government unit in charge of land management affairs.
They demanded the MOI apologize, offer compensation and return the land to the owners of the four Dapu households, whose homes were demolished on July 18 despite a previous government pledge to preserve them.
Police Morale Damaged
Commenting on the incident yesterday, Lee said the morale of Taiwanese police has been seriously damaged by several rounds of large-scale protests that were staged nationwide over the past months.
During these demonstrations, many law enforcement officers were attacked and splashed with water or paint by protesters, he noted.
Protesters have the right to voice their opinions and hold assembly. However, they should also respect police officers' obligation to carry out official duties, Lee added.
A few days ago, a similar incident occurred in Miaoli County. A police officer's right eye was injured by an egg tossed by a protester. The officer, surnamed Chang, was sent to a hospital for treatment, according to local media reports.
In response to Lee's comments, netizens yesterday launched a campaign calling on those who participated in Monday's demonstration to turn themselves in to the Taipei police.