Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The anachronistic Assembly and Parade Law

When I heard that Su Beng had been charged with serving 50 days in prison, I knew that I had to get to the bottom of it. I wasn't exactly sure what he'd been charged with.

This all dates back to last year- April 26, 2005, the day Lien Chan was to leave on a trip to China to meet with Chinese Communist leaders.

On that day, en route to the airport, Su Beng had Lien Chan’s car followed. Several taxi drivers made coordinated efforts to surround Lien’s motorcade while on the expressway so that a taxi carrying Su Beng could drive up along side Lien’s car, close enough so that Lien could read a message that Su Beng held out the window of the taxi; it read, “Don’t sellout Taiwan.”

Su Beng and his supporters also showed up at the Taiwan Taoyuan airport (formerly known as the Chiang Kai-shek airport then) that day, to protest Lien Chan's trip. Su Beng's group had fireworks which were brought into and released inside the airport.

Su Beng's taxi driver was arrested on April 26 and held without bail for over 24 hours. After 24 hours had passed, on April 27, Su Beng and his supporters (which included other drivers of taxis and vehicles from the "Taiwan Independence Action" motorcade) went to the jail where Su Beng's taxi driver was being held. They assembled there in a show of support for the driver. Su Beng's taxi driver remained in jail for a month before he was finally released.

From April 2005 until June 2006, Su Beng has appeared in court no less than ten times for questioning regarding possession of fireworks in the Taiwan Taoyuan airport. He was not questioned regarding the incident on the expressway; the incident which presumably his taxi driver has been imprisoned for.

Finally, on September 7, Su Beng was notified that he would be charged with serving 50 days in a jail, or fined over NT$50,000. The reason for the charge? When Su Beng and his supporters, including all the drivers for the "Taiwan Independence Action" motorcade assembled at the jail on April 27, they had not applied for a permit to assemble publicly.

Although protests, and marches are now commonplace in Taiwan, there are still laws on the books that make such demonstrations illegal. According to the Taiwan Journal, "[The Assembly and Parade Law] stipulates that people must first obtain a permit from the police precinct where the assembly is to take place. The police at the precinct level therefore have the power to permit or deny all applications for assembly and protest activities, and they are charged with maintaining order during the marches and driving away protesters if things get too rowdy." Click here to read more about the selective enforcement of the "assembly law."

Some of us suspect that authorities are using this loop hole to charge Su Beng. If they charged him for setting off fireworks in the airport on April 26, then they'd have to go after the other protestors who caused disturbances in the airport, namely the instigators of violent attacks, many of whom are actually gangsters.

Su Beng has the right to appeal the ruling, but he probably won't appeal. What difference would a further appeal make? He is currently awaiting notification on when the 50 day charge must be served.

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