Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Taking a stand against police abuse

With more large protests expected this month, the issue of police abuse needs close scrutiny

Amid growing public discontent with government policies and wave after wave of public protests, law enforcement authorities are under severe strain and have on occasion gone overboard in their duties, which has prompted a large number of lawyers and human rights organizations to step in.

Clashed erupt at the Legislative Yuan last week
Almost every day in recent months, the news has been filled with footage of protesters — from university students to elderly citizens — clashing with police over a number of controversies. For weeks now, the Legislative Yuan has been under siege, while Cabinet officials have been the targets of flash protests all over the country, their visits turning the venues into high-security zones surrounded by large police deployments. In some instances, the National Security Bureau has even stepped in. Special zones have been created where protesters are hemmed in and with growing frequency police have requested that ordinary citizens show their identity documents whenever they approach a “restricted” zone. In some cases, refusal to do so has led to a visit to the local police station.

Lawyer and Yuanli victims
The sense of oppression has increased and with it the fear of a return to past practices under authoritarian rule. Young men whose only crime was to wear a red T-shirt — a color associated with several civic movements — have been swarmed by police officers who suspected they were participants in a protest, when in fact they were heading for a bus station near the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) headquarters. Other cases have been less amusing, with protesters being dragged away, arrested, harassed and physically injured. In Miaoli County, which has a particularly bad reputation, and where a German firm is erecting wind turbines, abuse by police and thugs have been especially notorious.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. (All photos by the author)

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