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May 25, 2017

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Special forces soldiers active during Sunday's student protest: MND

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Military Police special forces soldiers were dispatched to guard the Presidential Office Building in response to elevated tensions during Sunday's mass student-led protest, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday.

Fielding questions during a legislative hearing yesterday, Deputy Defense Minister Lee Shying-jow (李翔宙) said two Military Police special force squads were sent into the Presidential Office Building in case of an emergency.

"We have to take every possible scenario into consideration and to make preparation accordingly," Lee said.

Lee made the comments in response to a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker's question on why military special force units were mobilized to guard the president during Sunday's protest.

According to DPP legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), the R.O.C. Military Police special forces, code-named Night Hawk (夜鷹), specializes in counter-terrorism missions.

Hsiao questioned the legitimacy of the military sending the unit into the Presidential Office, saying that the gesture symbolizes that the military sees these student protestors as enemies.

In response, Lee denied the accusation, saying that the special forces were mobilized in case of possible terrorist attacks targeting the Presidential Office.

"We are not seeing these students as our enemies. The rally on Sunday was joined by people from all walks of life and many of the protestors were not students, so we have to be prepared and stay on highest alert," Lee said.

Soldiers Did Not Carry Weapons

Speaking during the same hearing, Military Police Command Chief of Staff Kao Ning-sung(高甯松) said the decision to send troops into the office was made by the National Security Council. The command was simply following orders, he said.

Kao stressed that only 30 soldiers were sent to guard the Presidential Office, and none of them carried weapons, contrary to local media reports that said 60 Night Hawks members carrying rifles were stationed at the office.

All 30 military police personnel have been withdrawn from the office following the conclusion of Sunday large scale rally, he added.

Hundreds of thousands of student-led protesters dressed in black gathered along Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in a protest over President Ma Ying-jeou and the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement on Sunday. The protest ended peacefully later in the same day.

In preparation for possible conflict, some 2,000 police, including military police, were dispatched to guard the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, the Joint Central Government Office Building and other major government buildings in case of an emergency.

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