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July 24, 2017

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Court orders easing of rally restrictions

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Constitutional Court yesterday declared "unconstitutional" an existing assembly law that requires one to obtain permission before holding outdoor rallies of an urgent or incidental nature.

Currently, the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) requires permission to be obtained in advance from the police for all outdoor rallies, even if they are spur-of-the-moment events.

In a ruling handed out by the justices of the Constitutional Court yesterday, the court deemed that the requirement is "overly restrictive" and in violation of the constitutionally protected freedom of assembly.

According to the ruling, article 9 of the act stipulates that one has to file an application with authorities six days before an outdoor assembly or a parade takes place.

But one does not have to do so if outdoor rallies of an urgent or incidental nature are to be held, said the article.

However, article 12 of the same act noted that related authorities should notify affected parties of an emergency assembly in paper within 24 hours of receipt of the application.

The two articles have apparently contradicted each other, the ruling party said.

The court ruled that the requirement will be invalid from Jan. 1, 2015, and that related authorities should amend the law to exempt urgent or incidental cases from requiring advance permission.

The ruling was issued in response to a petition for constitutional interpretation filed in 2010 by a Taipei District Court judge who was presiding over a case in which two professors were indicted for initiating the "Wild Strawberries" sit-in protest without permission in 2008.

The protest was held during the visit by a Chinese official Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) on November 2008 as part of an anti-China demonstration in Taipei. Some had alleged use of excessive force by police to disperse participants during the protest.

Many opposition lawmakers and human rights groups in Taiwan have been calling to amend the existing assembly act for decades, saying it infringes on basic human rights.

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