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Executive Yuan passes amendment governing conditions of assemblies

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In response to Constitutional Interpretation No. 718, the Executive Yuan yesterday passed an amendment to the Assembly and Parade Act, stipulating that an outdoor rally of an urgent nature has to report to the authorities before being held; an incidental assembly or parade does not need to report in advance.

The Constitutional Court earlier in March declared that the existing assembly law that requires one to obtain permission before holding outdoor rallies of an urgent or incidental nature is “unconstitutional.” The court deemed that the said requirement is “overly restrictive” and in violation of the constitutionally protected freedom of assembly.

In fact, the Cabinet in 2012 passed an amendment to the assembly act, stating that permission from the authorities is no longer required should the public report an outdoor rally to authorities in advance. The amendment, however, has yet to be passed in the Legislative Yuan.

In the wake of the recent Constitutional interpretation, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) proposed a new amendment to the act to ease the current regulations. MOI Deputy Minister Chiu Chang-yueh (邱昌嶽) yesterday said as the amendment is pending the Legislative Yuan's deliberations, his ministry will first propose general principals by the end of this month for the reference of the public and authorities.

Chiu explained the differences between the rallies of an urgent and an incidental nature, saying that a rally of an incidental nature does not have a specific organizer and hence does not need to report to the authorities beforehand. Chiu went on to say that an assembly or parade held in an emergency situation may occupy car lanes and pose risks to public safety, so such a rally has to be reported to the authorities.

When asked to define the nature of the April 11 demonstration outside of Zhongzheng First Precinct in Taipei, Chiu said given that the rally had an organizer, specific demands and plans, it cannot be defined as an emergency or an incidental rally. Chiu further said that he cannot comment any further on the April 11 demonstration as the prosecutors are currently investigating the case.

On April 11, following the dispersal of a group of activists outside the Legislature in the morning, nearly 1,000 protesters besieged the precinct office in the evening. The protesters demanded the apology and resignation of Zhongzheng First Precinct Chief Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧), who had been in charge of the dispersal.

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