Dec 11, 2008

Police forces end to nonviolent student sit-ins in Taipei!

Timing couldn't have been more ironic:
In the night after the 60-year declaration of universal human rights on December 10, at around 3 to 4 a.m., the expressedly non-violent student protesters of the Wild Strawberry Movement were forced by the police to leave their home for one month, Liberty Square (the former CKS Memorial Hall). This move made President Ma's speech of the day look awkward:
"Thanks to the government's continued efforts to uphold human rights, Taiwan has now become "the world's freest country" in terms of the people's right to assembly, which [Ma] said was very well demonstrated by several protests at the ceremony in support of a variety of causes."

This is what a friend from Taiwan wrote:
Note also that the eviction fell right into a time when plans for a more coordinated collaboration with Tibetan activists (e.g. for inviting the Dalai Lama to Taiwan) were being mulled over. My friend explicitly says that the reason policemen stated for evicting the students was "helping the Tibetans".
I am not sure whether anyone anticipated a move like that at the moment. But sad it is, indeed. I feel like it should be clear for everybody to see what this government is trying to accomplish, only that media in the west go out of their way to stress its "pragmatism" towards China and not mention hell about what is happening bit by bit: the vanishing of what used to be one of the worlds premier democratisation processes, a prime example for political theory until just recently. And this is truely sad, especially with the symbolic date serving as symbolic background. I'm confused whether Ma did it purposedly right then. Since actions speak louder than words, their symbolic meaning are crashing his smooth rhetoric, and this is frightening.
What else can you do when there is no opposition left? Presidency, Government, Police and Military, and a huge part of the media are working hand in hand with the ruling party to re-establish the one-party state of old. This is what I fear.
And it will have an impact on democratisation processes around the world.

Dec 7, 2008

What the Wild Strawberry Movement reminds me of

I have once had bright hopes that I could actually be witnessing a politics-changing movement. That was back in 2003, when we demonstrated against the war in Iraq on every Monday for about 7 weeks or so. At high, there were around 45,000 people participating in Leipzig only. But somehow, we grew tired, and our spirits faded. After all, you could see less and less people coming to our Monday's demonstrations. Sometimes, I wonder if at least we could change the hearts of those who walked with us. If no change in policy-making was possible, this would be some success already. But ever since, I did not see people change their behaviour. Maybe changes take their time.

Next occasion were our student protests against the introduction of study fees in Germany in the Winter of 2003/04. Those were pretty effective, since we up to date have no regular fees in Saxony. We even boycotted the university for one whole term, creating our own seminars in public places etc. That would be a great thing to see in Taiwan, too! We found a lot of friends and like-minded people those days, and we became creative in every way. Somehow, this transcended our normal form of existence as being the weakest part of the line that makes up the system of university education. However - this is almost 5 years past now, and I still see some of my fellow protesters around (it was my first term back then), and we share a special common bandage. But everyone needed to move on and get back to their studies, too. University politics are too difficult to handle just as bypart to continuing a regular student life.
I am still waiting for the next opportunity to try and change the system again. Meanwhile, I pray (not literally) for every other student movement that tries that way. I would like to be part of it. I wish you all the power and energy it takes.
It is important that you continue your movement. Who else will?

Ma doesn't want the Dalai Lama in Taiwan...

...but that doesn't mean that he won't come, does it?
Ma's rebuff of the Dalai Lama coming to Taiwan is good news because:
It will enhance international attention to what is happening in Taiwan. In his inauguration speech, Ma welcomed the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan anytime. Now, Taiwan students and NGOs are thinking about inviting him on their behalf.
According to Lynn Miles, fighting for democracy and human rights in Taiwan since the 70s, this is the way politics should be done by the people:
People! This is what we must all be doing -- taking the movement to the people. People-to-people connections, once consumated, can put an end to this tired, year-in-and-year out chasing after corrupt politicians who are already in someone else's pocket long before we even get past their secretaries.

Wild Strawberries offers us an excellent opportuunity to do this people-to-people grassroots work. Student organizations should be at the top of our list, and human rights NGOs, and so on.

Governments do not speak in the name of the people they are supposed to represent. When it comes to this, evidence can be found in the matter on Taiwan:
Consider this. Virtually all of the world's peoples outside of China recognize Taiwan as a country. Go anywhere in the world and if someone asks you what country you are from, and you say "Taiwan," that is the end of the matter. Pure and simple. So what you have is the people of the world recognizing Taiwan, on the one hand, while their governments do not recognize Taiwan on the other. How then can we call them democracies? They have all been corrupted by the big-money power!

That is why we need to change things on our own! For if we want to see things change, we need to be the change we want to see!

International Scholars' Open Letter, Responding to Taiwan's Justice Minister

Open Letter no. 2 was published in the Taipei Times on 2 December:

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs

552 7th Street. SE. Washington, DC 20003

Support Democracy, Support Taiwan.

For Immediate Release
December 2, 2008, 2008
Contact: Iris Ho at 202.547.3686

On Friday November 28th a group of prominent international scholars and writers sent an open letter to Taiwan's Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng, expressing continued concern about political arrests and detentions in Taiwan. The group was responding to an open letter from the Minister, which was published in the Taipei Times on Tuesday, November 25th.

In the response, the scholars and writers stated: "Based on the information available to us, however, we remain concerned about choices made by prosecutors in applying existing legal authority and strongly believe in the need for reform." The letter went on to detail concerns about "preventive detention", detention without formal charges, the absence of lawyer-client confidentiality, leaks by prosecutors to the press, and political bias in the judicial system.

The scholars and writers expressed fear that the current judicial procedures being used in Taiwan is endangering the country's democratization, and is damaging the goodwill that Taiwan has developed internationally. They concluded by expressing the hope and expectation that Taiwan's government will quickly correct the present injustices, and move towards reform of the judicial system.


November 28th 2008

The Honorable Wang Ching-feng

Minister of Justice

130 Chung-Ching S. Rd, Sec 1

Taipei, Taiwan

Dear Minister Wang,

In an open letter to the Taipei Times, published on November 25th 2008, you responded to our joint statement regarding the erosion of justice in Taiwan. We appreciate your acknowledgement of the sincerity of our concerns, and are grateful to receive a prompt and serious reply. Based on the information available to us, however, we remain concerned about choices made by prosecutors in applying existing legal authority and strongly believe in the need for reform. Please allow us to highlight a number of specific points:

1. The procedure of "preventive detention." This procedure is obviously intended for serious criminal cases in which the suspect is likely to flee the country. In his November 13th article in the South China Morning Post, Professor Jerome Cohen states that "it ought to be invoked rarely."

Yet, during the past weeks, it has been used across the board, and it has been used only against present and former members of the DPP government. This casts severe doubts on the impartiality of the judicial system. We also wish to point out that the people involved were detained under deplorable circumstances, and that they were not even allowed to see relatives.

2. The open letter contains the argument that when they were detained, the present and former DPP government officials "were all informed of the charges that had been brought against them." This is simply not correct: when they were detained, they were subject to lengthy interrogations – in some cases for up to 20 hours – which bore the character of a "fishing expedition", and do not represent a formal indictment in any legal sense. In most cases the prosecutors had had months of time to collect information: if they did have sufficient evidence of wrong-doing, they should formally have charged the persons and let them have their day in a scrupulously impartial court of law. That would be the desirable procedure under the rule of law in a democratic society.

3. The open letter also states that the persons involved had "the right and ability to communicate with their attorneys to seek legal assistance." It neglects to mention that in all cases where people were detained, the discussions with the lawyers were recorded and videotaped, while a guard took notes. This information was then immediately transmitted to the respective prosecutors. We don't need to point out that this is a grave infringement on international norms regarding the lawyer-client privilege, and makes mounting an adequate defense problematic at best.

4. On the issue of leaks to the press, the letter states that under the Code of Criminal Procedure information on ongoing investigations can only be disclosed by spokespersons of the prosecutor's offices and that unauthorized disclosure is subject to criminal prosecution. The fact of the matter is that during the past weeks, the media has been filled with information on the ongoing investigations which could only have come from the prosecutors. We may point out one example, but there are numerous others:

Only a few hours after former Foreign Minister Mark Chen was questioned on November 3rd, the Apple Daily (a local tabloid) ran an article that "the prosecutors are thinking of charging Dr. Chen in relation to the case."

The issue of violation of the principle of secret investigation was also raised by Shih Lin District Court Judge Hung Ing-hua, who strongly criticized the present situation and procedures followed by your Ministry in an article in the Liberty Times on November 17th 2008.

We may also mention that we find it highly peculiar that no steps whatsoever have been taken against the various prosecutors who leaked information, while we just learned that the Ministry of Justice is now taking steps against Mr. Cheng Wen-long, the lawyer for former President Chen Shui-bian, who presumably "leaked" information to the press. The Ministry sent a formal request to the Taipei District Prosecutor's Office asking the office to investigate and prosecute, and also sent a formal request to Taiwan Lawyer's Association and asked the association to review the case and see whether Cheng should have his license revoked.

It is our understanding that the statements Mr. Cheng made were in relation to former President Chen's views on Taiwan's situation and its future, and an expression of love for his wife, but did not have any bearing on the case against him. We hope you realize that if the Ministry proceeds along these lines, this will be perceived as a direct confirmation of the strong political bias of the judicial system.

5. The letter states that it is untrue that Taiwan's judicial system is susceptible to political manipulation. If this is the case, how can it be explained that in the past weeks, only DPP officials have been detained and given inhumane treatment such as handcuffing and lengthy questioning, while obvious cases of corruption by members of the KMT – including in the Legislative Yuan -- are left untouched by the prosecutors or at best stalled in the judicial process?

We may also refer to expressions of concern by Prof. Jerome Cohen and by lawyer Nigel Li, who expressed his deep concerns about the preventive detentions in an editorial in the China Times on November 9th 2008. In his editorial, Mr. Li praised the remarks made by prosecutor Chen Rui-ren, who was part of the legal team prosecuting the special fund cases, that the prosecutors' offices should "avoid the appearance of targeting only one particular political group."

The fact that the Special Investigation Task Force was set up under the DPP Administration or that the prosecutor general was nominated by President Chen is not at issue here. The problem is that the present system is being used in a very partial fashion.

We may add that the fact that you yourself have publicly discussed the content of the cases does create a serious imbalance in the playing field, and undermines the basic dictum that a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Under the present circumstances it is hard to see how the persons involved – including former President Chen Shui-bian – can have a fair trial in Taiwan.

6. Lastly, the statement by the US State Department is interpreted in the letter as an "endorsement" of Taiwan's legal system and the procedures followed. It should be noted that in international diplomatic language, the term "we have every expectation" means "we are concerned and we will watch the situation closely."

For the past two decades, Taiwan has faced a difficult situation internationally. What has given Taiwan important credibility in democratic countries around the world has been its democratization. We fear that the current judicial procedures being used in Taiwan endanger this democratization, and endanger the goodwill that Taiwan has developed internationally.

In conclusion: we do remain deeply disturbed by the erosion of justice in Taiwan, and express the sincere hope and expectation that your government will maintain fair and impartial judicial practices and quickly correct the present injustices. As an editorial in the November 20th issue of the London-based Economist indicated, Taiwan is "hungry for justice", and we also hope that your government will be willing to initiate judicial reform which would move Taiwan towards a fully fair and impartial judicial system which earns the respect and admiration from other democratic countries around the world.

Respectfully yours,

Signatories of the November 4th Joint Statement

  1. Nat Bellocchi, former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan
  2. Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington DC
  3. Stéphane Corcuff, Associate Professor of Political Science, China and Taiwan Studies, University of Lyon, France
  4. Gordon G. Chang, author, "The Coming Collapse of China."
  5. David Curtis Wright, Associate Professor of History, University of Calgary
  6. June Teufel Dreyer, Professor of Political Science, University of Miami, Florida
  7. Edward Friedman, Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  8. Mark Harrison, Senior Lecturer, Head of Chinese School of Asian Languages and Studies, University of Tasmania, , Australia
  9. Bruce Jacobs, Professor of Asian Languages and Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  10. Richard C. Kagan, Professor Emeritus of History, Hamline University, St. Paul Minnesota
  11. Jerome F. Keating, Associate Professor, National Taipei University (Ret.). Author, "Island in the Stream, a quick case study of Taiwan's complex history" and other works on Taiwan
  12. Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California
  13. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
  14. Donald Rodgers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Austin College, Texas
  15. Terence Russell, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Manitoba
  16. Scott Simon, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa
  17. Michael Stainton, York Center for Asia Research, Toronto
  18. Peter Tague, Professor of Law, Georgetown University
  19. John J. Tkacik Jr., Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, Washington DC
  20. Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond, Virginia
  21. Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
  22. Gerrit van der Wees, Editor Taiwan Communiqué, Washington DC
  23. Stephen Yates, President of DC Asia Advisory and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs

AI urging Taiwan Police to avoid using force at protests



AI Index No: ASA 38/001/2008

3 December 2008

Taiwan: Police should avoid using excessive force at upcoming protests

Amnesty International has urged Taiwan's police force to comply with international guidelines on the use of force and crowd control at the planned student protests on Sunday 7 December.

The organization also joins calls for the Control Yuan, the body mandated by the Taiwan Constitution with supervisory power over the Executive branch, to conduct an independent inquiry into alleged excessive police force during November's protests.

The Wild Strawberry Student Movement has staged sit-ins since 6 November to protest against what they consider the use of excessive force during the Taiwan visit of Chen Yunlin, chairman of the China-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. Civil society groups in Taiwan are investigating multiple claims that individuals suffered head injuries and broken fingers at the hands of police during the protests.

According to police reports on 8 November, approximately 10,000 police officers had been deployed during Chen's visit; 149 police officers and 200-300 individuals were injured; 18 were arrested.

Taiwanese civil society groups claim that police have applied the Assembly and Parade Law arbitrarily to silence dissent. According to the students' spokesperson, they will not seek police approval, as required by the law, but will only "report" their plans to law enforcement authorities, in line with amendments advocated by the Movement.

The Movement is organizing the protest on Sunday 7 December to criticize the government's failure to amend the Assembly and Parade Law.

Amnesty International said Taiwan's Control Yuan should address the serious concerns raised by civil society in Taiwan and the government should cease the practice of using the Assembly and Parade Law to deny freedom of assembly and allow individuals to protest peacefully. Amnesty International also called on Taiwanese police and judicial authorities to ensure that they investigate any protesters accused of engaging in violence in a fair, transparent, and timely manner in compliance with international standards.


On 3-7 November 2008, Chen Yunlin, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, led a 60-member delegation from the People's Republic of China to visit Taiwan and meet with President Ma Ying-jeou.

The police barred protesters displaying Taiwanese and Tibetan flags and anti-China slogans along the routes taken by the envoy and confiscated or damaged some of these items. The police also closed a shop near the hotel where Chen Yunlin had dinner with Kuomintang honorary chairman Lien Chan when the shop loudly broadcast music from an album titled 'Songs of Taiwan'.

There were additional reports of arbitrary detention and police brutality, some of which, according to the police, were in response to the violence of protesters.

Following the visit, hundreds of students have staged sit-ins across Taiwan protesting the police's handling of the protests and demanding amendments to the Assembly and Parade Law, which has been misused to prevent protests.

On 6 November the students started their sit-ins outside the offices of the Executive Yuan or (Executive branch), where they were eventually removed by police on the grounds of illegal assembly. They continued the sit-ins at the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall and organized a daily demonstration calling for immediate amendments to the Assembly and Parade Law, apologies from the president and head of government and the resignations of the heads of the police and national security.

On 18 November Taipei police announced a list of 66 "troublemakers", who had allegedly thrown gas bombs and stones at the police and spat at the Taichung mayor. There were also reports that the police had pressured journalists and their supervisors to hand over video tapes to identify suspects who allegedly took part in the violence.


Public Document

For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Dec 2, 2008

Strawberries Going Wild

Protesting the exaggerated and inappropriate actions taken by the Ma administration while hosting Chinese cross-straits envoy Chen Yunlin in Taiwan (huge police forces blocking protesters from coming any close to where the envoy met with high Taiwanese politicians, use of violence by the police forces, ban on showing ROC- and Tibetan flags, imprisonment of leading opposition politicians, etc.), has led Taiwan's students circa one month ago to form the "Wild Strawberries Movement". The movement has groups in six cities: Taipei, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Hsinchu, Chiayi, and Taichung. Their means is peaceful protest, most profoundly do they wish to hold out in a sit-in strike to pressure politicians to take on democracy and the people they represent more seriously. In the media, the Wild Strawberries have been misrepresented from the beginning, in what resembles a campaign to denounce their political engagement as being led by the opposition (i.e., the DPP) - despite their ever-repeated party neutrality and criticism towards all established parties. The KMT and pan-blue media here show just exactly the same will to manipulate public opinion and generate deep polarisation in between the people as they criticized the former Chen administration of.

This is the homepage:

(The Name:)
Their name seems deliberately chosen, for the young generation in Taiwan is somewhat pejoratively being called "strawberries" often (since they are said to be spoiled and unable to bear any sort of stress). Now Taiwan's students try to show that they have well recognised the signs of the present happenings: The fear that Taiwan's democratic environment and human rights situation might soon deteriorate (if they have not already).

The Wild Strawberries have urged President Ma and Prime Minister Liou to apologize for the actions taken by government and police during the time of the Chen-visit to Taiwan. They also ask the directors of National Police Agency and National Security Bureau, respectively, to step down from their offices, and for the law concerning the right to assemble (dating from Martial Law times and strictly restricting such assemblings) to be revised by the Legislative Yuan.
I hope for the Berries-Students to be at least as successfull as their predecessors who were protesting in 1990, one year after the CCP had crushed a student revolt so profundly and suddenly. In 1990, the KMT didn't dare take such action against peacefully demonstrating students. Eventually, the students' protests paved the way for ameliorating the constitution, being another stone on the way that led to democratisation. Only, our fear is that Ma will play on time and wait until the protesters spirit has vanished, so to refrain from any changes in his style of politics other than rhetoric (and his rhetoric being this and that, anyway).

A few days ago, they uploaded a video introducing their movement:

(The Future:)
To work against frustration (mostly deriving from being almost completely ignored by the government) and gather new spirit in working towards a change, the movement is about to set a new step:
On December 7th, they are going to rally a few thousand people (hopefully) to march towards the Presidental Office, in obvious violation of the old Law on Assembling and without a police permit. Thus they are hoping to enhance the political debate about revising the law. Whether or not police forces will crush the "illegal" demonstration will be of significant influence for the future of that law. This should be a way to evoke reaction by the government (to "coax them out of their shell"), in one way or another, and prevent the protests from dying from inactivity and idleness.

There is also a lot more brand new information on some English-speaking blogs in Taiwan, for instance on "the view from Taiwan" and "David on Formosa". Especially the Taipei Times had some nice editorials on the student protests (example). Don't forget the protesters website and their effort to keep it updated several times a day, all in English.

An English Statement can be found here.
On this occasion, Anti-Flag spontaneously springs to mind: "You can kill the protester, but you can't kill the protest! You can murder the rebell, but you can't murder the rebellion!"

All I can wish for is: May your protest be longlived and bright, may it bring about the change we want to see!

Following is their statement in German:

Protestiert Gegen Polizeibrutalitaet!! Verteidigt Freiheit und Menschenrecht. (Statment in German)

Angefangen am 3. November, mit dem Besuch von Chen Yunlin, hat die Polizei zahlreiche Aktionen gegen Demonstranten durchgeführt, darunter die Beschlagnahmung und Zerstoerung von Eigentum, physische Gewalt, und sogar Verhaftungen. Die große Mehrheit der betroffenen Demonstranten befand sich nicht einmal in der Nähe von Chen Yunlin.

Durch Berichte in den Medien haben wir den Ernst der Situation erkannt. Es geht nicht nur um Details bei der Strafverfolgung, noch handelt es sich einfach um einen Konflikt zwischen Anhaengern verschiedener politischer Parteien. Es geht vielmehr um Polizeigewalt, die vom Staat gefördert wird und die die Zivilgesellschaft beschaedigt.

Alle diese Aktionen, die Menschenrechte und demokratische Werte ignorieren, erinnern an das Kriegsrecht. Aber der Premier Liu weicht seiner Verantwortung mit unklaren Entschuldigungen aus. Diese Reaktionen der Regierung empören und beschaemen uns.

Wir fragen uns: Muss Taiwan seine Standards bei Freiheit und Demokratie bis auf das Niveau von China senken, um mit China wirtschaftlich kooperieren zu können?

Innerhalb weniger Tage sind Freiheit und Demokratie, für die die Taiwanesen so hart gekaempft haben, durch die Polizeiaktionen ernsthaft beschaedigt worden. Unsere Regierung ignoriert dies und veranstaltet stattdessen Empfaenge und Bankette für den Gast aus China.

Wir sind eine Gruppe von Universitaetsprofessoren, Studenten, und Bürgern, die sich Sorgen um die zukünftige Entwicklung Taiwans machen. Unser Protest ist überparteilich und unabhaengig von anderen politischen Organisationen.

Wir werden weiter friedlich demonstrieren, bis unsere Forderungen erfüllt werden. Unsere Forderungen sind:

Präident Ma Ying-Jeou und Premierminister Liu Chao-Shiuan müssen sich öffentlich bei allen Bürgern für die Vorkommnisse entschuldigen.

Der Generaldirektor der nationalen Polizei, Wang Cho-Chiun, und der Direktor der Staatssicherheitsbehörde, Tsai Chao-Ming, müssen zurücktreten.

Das Parlament muss das Versammlungsgesetz, das die Versammlungsfreiheit der Menschen einschränkt, revidieren.