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MRT protest plans under investigation
TRA leader Tsay Ting-kuei freed on bail
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-30 03:09 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – An online call for a massive occupation of Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit system by opponents of the fourth nuclear plant was under investigation, reports said Wednesday.

The reports followed an unexpected action by anti-nuclear activists on Tuesday which culminated in the occupation of a stretch of Chunghsiao East Road section 2 during the peak hour. Buses were diverted and motorized traffic found it difficult to pass, leading to altercations between anti-nuclear activists and motorists. Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin promised tough action against any further occurrences.

A private online statement not linked to any anti-nuclear action groups reportedly called on 100,000 people to occupy all the capital’s MRT trains. The mayor could not do anything about it, since he could not send in police with water cannons and would not dare stop all trains since this would infuriate passengers, the online statement said.

The writer estimated that 1,500 people could fill one train and 33,000 people all trains on the Tamshui Line.

Reactions to the idea ranged from praises of creativity to threats of anger from millions of Taipei residents. Other writers said the plan was too naïve and would never work, or even suggested a blockade of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Chinese-language Apple Daily said the author of the post, a farmers’ association employee from Chiayi surnamed Chou, claimed he had only been reposting an idea he had found elsewhere online.

In a reaction to the statement, the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation called on the public not to violate the law. The person responsible for the article could face up to two years in prison or a NT$1,000 (US$) fine for inciting other people to break the law, according to TRTC.

If any illegal action took place, the company said it would alert the police.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah and the Ministry of Interior both condemned Tuesday’s occupation of the Chunghsiao East Road intersection. Opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Yao Wen-chih appeared at the same site Wednesday with a group of anti-nuclear protesters holding banners and chanting slogans, but they did not hamper traffic.

Opponents calling for a tougher approach by Mayor Hau against unscheduled protests said they would gather outside the Taipei City Council Thursday.

Wednesday afternoon, a small protest against nuclear waste was held outside the Executive Yuan building. Activists accused the government of being incapable of handling the waste from the country’s three active nuclear plants. Orchid Island off Taitung County has been the prime location for the government to store the waste, but it has dragged its feet on finding new options, the protesters said.

The authorities were also taking precautions against more protests Wednesday as Taiwan Referendum Association leader Tsay Ting-kuei appeared at the Taipei District Prosecutors Office to face questioning. On Tuesday, Tsay led a siege of the Legislative Yuan trying to prevent lawmakers from leaving instead of reviewing proposals related to nuclear energy. He was injured during scuffles and taken to nearby National Taiwan University Hospital for treatment. Several legislators from both sides of the political spectrum complained about the activists’ tactics.

Tsay pleaded not guilty, saying his action was a way for the public to express its demands. Nine other suspects allegedly involved in the blockade of the Legislative Yuan were also detained, police said. Tsay was freed on bail of NT$50,000 (US$1,600) though he was being investigated for kicking a policeman with his feet, reports said.

Officers from as many as six different districts and precincts were reportedly kept ready to respond to protests around the prosecutors’ office Wednesday.

Anti-nuclear protesters were asked to vacate Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building before the end of May 2 as the New Party had obtained the permission to stage events there on May 3 and 4, reports said.

In Kaohsiung, anti-nuclear activists said they would hold silent walks against nuclear energy for three evenings in a row beginning Wednesday evening and starting at a key MRT station. “In the face of a government which disregards public opinion, we can only stand up and show our determination,” organizers said.

The protesters said they would hand out yellow ribbons and read anti-nuclear statements while traveling on the MRT. The government should scrap the fourth nuclear plant completely and immediately, and not continue to spend taxpayers’ money on a project which could endanger following generations, according to the activists.

The wave of anti-nuclear protests started when former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung began a hunger strike on April 22. As his condition worsened, he was transferred to National Taiwan University Hospital last Monday. He issued a call for protests to remain non-violent and announced he was ending his fast Wednesday.

A protest outside the Presidential Office Building scheduled for May 4 was called off following Lin’s announcement, reports said.

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