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Taipei mayor turns down police chief resignation
Police supporters turn up amid fear of new confrontation
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-12 02:58 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin said Saturday he was going to reject the resignation offer of Zhongzheng First Police Precinct chief Fang Yang-ning after the siege of his police station by over a thousand protesters.

A small march walking past the precinct building near Taipei Railway Station turned into a mass siege by over 1,000 people Friday evening, with protesters demanding Fang’s resignation over his alleged violent handling of previous protests. The main grievance was police action against a small group which had stayed on in front of the Legislative Yuan after the 24-day occupation by students ceased.

Reports that a new protest was brewing Saturday evening raised tension around the building, which lies in a busy area filled with restaurants and cram schools. This time, a number of white-shirted supporters of the police were also standing ready to counter the protesters, who often wear black shirts.

On Friday evening, Fang addressed the crowds outside the precincts several time, insisting that he had not violated any laws, and if he had, he would welcome an investigation by the judiciary. As the crowds did not disperse and rumors of riot police action failed to materialize, Fang apologized and tendered his resignation.

Hau, who had earlier reportedly said he would investigate if any mistakes had been made, visited the precinct Saturday morning flanked by Fang where he announced he would not approve the police chief’s resignation offer. The mayor said he could not approve the public acting as it were a court and judge the police chief. He encouraged Fang to stay on in his job.

“The siege of the Zhongzheng First Precinct station was a serious illegal gathering,” Hau told the news conference. Unless the investigation uncovered serious shortcomings, he would not approve Fang’s resignation, the mayor said. He also praised the force for its handling of the precinct siege, which has ended peacefully thanks to its moderate approach.

Hau said that as far as he could tell, the police chief’s action against protesters in front of the Legislative Yuan Friday morning had been legal and not violent, though the investigation would look further into the problem.

Taiwan Referendum Association Chairman Tsai Ting-kuey was injured during the scuffles when he was reportedly hit by a bus. His supporters said that unlike the students who occupied the Legislature, he had applied for and received permission to stay on the sidewalk in front of the compound. The authorities’ decision to ban the group from the location was unconstitutional, its supporters said. About 100 TRA supporters were still holding out at the site, reports said Saturday afternoon.

The protesters outside the police station Friday night wrote the slogan “Abolish the Assembly and Parade Act” on its walls in a reference to the law which restricts the freedom of protest by setting application procedures.

A preliminary investigation into Friday’s precinct siege turned up the presence of two alleged participants in the March 23-24 occupation of the Executive Yuan, reports said. Activist Chen Ting-hao had been released on bail after the event, which was ended by riot police wielding batons and using water cannons.

Lin Fei-fan, the top student leader of the Legislative Yuan occupation, on Saturday expressed support for the leader of the police siege, National Taiwan University philosophy student Hung Chung-yen. He had not been the organizer of the anti-police protest, yet he took responsibility and took on the leadership of the action, Lin said.

The student leader condemned the authorities for banning the TRA from holding its protests in front of the Legislative Yuan. The freedom to hold protests should be safeguarded by the Constitution, so the government should not break the law by using violence against protesters, Lin said in an online statement.

His fellow occupation leader Chen Wei-ting rejected charges that the precinct siege was diluting the impact of the action at the Legislative Yuan. Fang was not only using violence against peaceful democratic protesters, but also violating the Constitution, thus crossing the line of what any person who loved democracy could stand, Chen said.

Others pointed out that Hung had campaigned on behalf of police officers’ right to form a trade union, and called on those people now voicing support for Fang to also join in the campaign for a police union.

During a visit to Yilan County, President Ma Ying-jeou expressed support for the police acting to protect the law.

The recent spate of protests and occupations started after ruling Kuomintang lawmakers tried to force last year’s controversial trade-in-services pact with China through, despite earlier promises to hold a thorough review.

On March 18, hundreds of students entered the Legislative Yuan in protest against the KMT legislators’ behavior and stayed there until last Thursday evening. One of their key demands was the approval of a framework law to monitor talks and agreements with China before the trade pact could be passed.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng promised the framework law would come first, leading to the students’ decision to end their occupation. They said they would be back if the politicians broke their promises and approved government proposals without amending them.

On Saturday, there were also actions by counterprotesters coming out in favor of the police, with sympathizers sending flowers to the Zhongzheng First Precinct and removing notes affixed by protesters. Relatives of police officers also came out with a protest of their own. The event led to verbal confrontations with opponents of the trade pact. Fang came out to receive flowers presented by a white-shirted group led by KMT Taipei City Councilor Lee Hsin.

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