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Opposition irate over detention of activists in Taoyuan
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-26 02:18 PM
Opposition and activist figures were incensed by the actions of security forces in breaking into a hotel room and detaining a group of eight activists for more than 11 hours Wednesday. The confrontation came at the Novotel hotel next to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport as Zhang Zhijun, head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, flew into Taiwan on a four-day visit. Zhang met Wang Yu-chin, director of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, in the hotel before going on to his first stop in New Taipei City.

Wednesday’s clash involved Anti-black box Democratic Front convener Lai Chung-chiang and seven other activists who had entered the hotel two nights before. Police claimed that only Lai had registered for the hotel thus the visitors were in violation of a statute regulating vagrants and criminals. The activists countered that the statute in question, the "Measures for the Registration of Vagrants" was abolished in 2008. The measures authorized police to take action where there was suspicion of activities involving firearms or other prohibited goods, drug abuse, suicide or murder, gambling or public disturbance, guests who are not carrying valid identification or refuse to register, or where there is evidence of dangerous behavior or other criminal activities.

The break-in into the hotel came after a second visit by security forces to the room where the activists were staying. In the first visit, hotel staff knocked on the door and claimed they were ‘room service’. The guests inside the room spotted security personnel behind the hotel staff, however, and refused to open the door.

Security officers returned later and demanded that the activists open the door, and when they again refused, they forced the door open and burst in on the activists.

Lai and the other guests were held in the hotel and not allowed to leave, even when Lai requested to go to the hotel lobby at 4 in the afternoon to explain the current situation to media reporters. The group was detained until 7 in the evening, and even then they were escorted by police through a phalanx of reporters and taken away by airport police vehicles.

The actions of security personnel in breaking into the hotel room and not permitting the guests to leave were roundly condemned by Lai after he was finally released Wednesday night following more than 11 hours of detention. He mocked the words of Zhang and Wang, who had claimed earlier that they were pleased to be able to hear the voices of the people of Taiwan. Lai complained, "Today the director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun, came to Taiwan, and the freedom and rights of the Taiwan people have been set back by 20 years to 30 years."

Lai protested that the security action was unwarranted and illegally, noting that it is normal for one person in a group to register upon entering a hotel for several days. He said that breaking into the hotel room showed that "The Ma government will break into your own house to come face to face with the voice of the people."

Lai stressed that his organization is opposed to ‘black box’ tactics in political negotiations. He disputed President Ma Ying-jeou’s claims that the Cross-strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) was neither a political agreement nor political negotiations, asking "How can talking about the one-China principle be anything but political negotiations? How can talking about establishing cross-strait mutual offices be anything other than political negotiations?”

Lai said the government cannot evade the eye of the people, and emphasized that black box negotiations have no place in developing and signing cross-strait agreements. He added that his group was not guilty of any violent actions and had only planned to unfurl protest banners in the hotel lobby. After being detained in the hotel room they attempted to dangle the banners from their sixth-floor window but were not even allowed by security agents to do that.

Members of the opposition DPP were vocal in their displeasure with the detention of the activists. Party Secretary General Hsiao Bi-khim contrasted the government’s treatment of Zhang with its pressure on Lai and his group. Zhang was greeted at the airport and even allowed to sing the national anthem of China, she said, while the activists were kept confined to a hotel room. “What kind of law enforcement standard is that?” she asked.

DPP legislator Lee Chun-yi was also highly critical of the heavy-handed treatment of the group, asking, “Are these some kind of imperial visitors from China? Is Taiwan under martial law?” DPP legislator Chen Chi-mai echoed Lee’s remarks and demanded that prosecutors collect evidence in the incident and immediately launch an investigation into the actions of security personnel.

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