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March 25, 2017

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Hakka Affairs chief defends himself in 'police state' row

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Hakka Affairs Council Minister Lee Yong-te (李永得) on Monday denied he had abused his power in dealing with a surprise ID inspection by the police, saying that he had only tried to reason with the officers as any member of the public would do.

Lee issued the statement via a Facebook post in a bid to clarify his complaint released one day prior about being stopped for an ID check by five or six police officers at a convenience store in Taipei.

The post on Sunday led to waves of online criticism against Lee after netizens learned that Lee had been reluctant to show his ID and failed to do so even after five minutes of conversation with the officers.

Police authorities said they ultimately had allowed Lee to leave without looking at his documents, stating that the entire incident had been conducted in line with relevant regulations.

But in the Monday post, Lee accused the police of resorting to sophistry by arguing they had conducted the ID examination in accordance with the law.

Interpretation No. 535 Cited

He cited the Grand Justice Interpretation No. 535 concerning police spot checks to support his accusation.

Based on the interpretation, police are not authorized to conduct random checks without considering the time, place and people, while spot checks are confined to areas where dangers or hazards have already surface or where criminal offenses are liable to imminently occur based on reasonable judgement.

In addition, any spot check should be limited to people who can reasonably be believed to have committed or will soon be committing a crime.

The last key point of the interpretation is that the police should present their ID and explain the reason for their actions before carrying out spot checks.

Former NPA Head Voices Support for Police

Meanwhile, Deputy New Taipei Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), who served as head of the National Policy Agency (NPA) before assuming his current post, on Monday voiced his support for police conducting spot checks in line with the provisions of the law.

In a Facebook post, Hou said that carrying out spot checks is one of the legal duties listed in the Police Power Exercise Act (警察職權行使法), adding that it would be meaningless for the police to exercise spot checks after criminal offenses have already taken place.

"Don't make Taiwan police feel hesitant towards attacking crimes," Hou said.

Hou also mentioned his over 20 years of experience as in the police, saying that information obtained through face-to-face communication with people during spot checks can lead to valuable information, specifically noting their use in curbing crimes and safeguarding social order.

He added that the general public do not expect a passive police force and should therefore speak up in defense of officers legally performing their duties.

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