Excessive force used by Taiwan police against eviction protesters

Peaceful Assembly

Groups demand investigation into excessive force by police at protests against forced eviction of Daguan community

On 6th August 2018, a coalition of groups opposed to the forced eviction of the Daguan community rallied outside the Control Yuan (Taiwan's highest independent oversight body) to call for an investigation into two demonstrations in which protesters were allegedly beaten up and confined to designated areas by police. Daguan residents are facing forced eviction after losing an extended legal battle with the Veterans Affairs Council over land rights.

According to Taiwan Association for Human Rights policy director Shih Yi-hsiang, “police abused their power by taking unnecessarily violent measures and restricting protesters’ freedom". Shih called on the Control Yuan to investigate the two cases to prevent police from abusing their powers and to better protect the public’s right to demonstrate and rally,

During a demonstration on 2nd August 2018, outside the National Housing and Regeneration Center in Taipei, where President Tsai Ing-wen was attending a ceremony, protesters were violently dragged 200 metres to an area bordered by barricades and police officers after being told once to disperse. They were reportedly forced to stay in the barricaded area, which the police described as a “protest zone", and prevented from going to the restroom for two hours. Several people who tried to leave were allegedly slapped in the face, pushed to the ground or kicked in the stomach by police guarding the area. A Daguan resident, Lin Yen-yu who took part in the protest said the police also prevented them from drinking water. She further said:

“We would not be protesting on the street if we did not need to. We are only doing it because the government is evicting us from our homes…the government is making life so difficult for us.”

During another protest on 4th August 2018, outside New Taipei City’s Jiangcui Elementary School, two hours before a Democratic Progressive Party campaign event was to begin, protesters were dragged away, put in police cars and prevented from leaving.

Indigenous groups protest regulation

Indigenous protesters have been camping at Taipei’s Peace Memorial Park for several months now. The small group is living in tents in a corner of the park, with a makeshift kitchen and a cluster of painted rocks, photographs and posters tracing Taiwan’s indigenous history and their fight for land rights.

They want the repeal of a regulation, enacted in 2017, which they say denies their right to ancestral land. The regulation on the delineation of traditional territory and its return to indigenous people, however they are limited to state-owned land and do not include private land, which the group says denies them a sizeable piece of territory.

Panai Kusui, an indigenous leader and singer said:

“We have been betrayed by the government…we are the original inhabitants of this island, the collective custodians of all land before the concept of public land and private land. This regulation denies us what is rightfully ours.”

Taiwan’s indigenous people make up about 2 per cent of its 23.5 million people and have long suffered marginalisation. In an unprecedented move, in 2016 newly elected President Tsai Ing-wen apologised to the indigenous people for “centuries of pain and mistreatment” and promised to improve their lives.

One step was to recognise their ancestral land: in February 2017, the government’s Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) issued a regulation declaring 1.8 million hectares – about half of Taiwan’s total land area – to be traditional territory. About 90 per cent of this was public land that indigenous people could claim, and to whose development they could consent. But activists say they must have rights over all traditional territory to ensure “environmentally friendly and culturally sensitive” development that also create opportunities for them.

Activists protest lack of protection for migrant fishermen

On 17th May 2018, Human Rights for Migrant Fishers (HRMF), a coalition of Taiwanese and international NGOs held a rally and press conference near the Presidential Office Building in Taipei. The group protested and called on the authorities to improve conditions for migrant fisherfolk.

According to the coalition, the migrant fishermen can spend up to several years aboard Taiwanese-owned vessels at sea. They have to sleep in cramped quarters, many suffer verbal and physical abuse, have their documents confiscated and wages deducted, all while trying to support families back home. Their complaints are often ignored, and courts have ruled in favour of their employers.

According to a report issued in March 2018 by the Fisheries Agency, there are currently 19,000 migrant workers involved in Taiwan’s fishing industry. These workers predominantly hail from Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines and Indonesia. However, according to a 2014 report issued by the US Department of State, the number of workers involved in the industry in Taiwan could be as high as 160,000.

A second protest was held at the end of July 2018, outside the International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking, held by the Immigration Agency in Taipei.

Expression

Taipei city government criticised for media interference 

On 7th August 2018, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) raised concerns against the Taipei City Government and in particular, Mayor Ko Wen-je, for repeatedly interfering with media reporting. Ko and the city government were criticised for boycotting and intimidating reporters who have run negative reports about himself or the city government in the past year.

According to the two organisations, CTi News Reporter Chen Yun-wen was silenced and later sacked in June 2018 after she claimed that she had obtained evidence showing that the Taipei mayor had lied about the speech draft he used for the Taipei–Shanghai Forum in Shanghai, China in July 2017. The speech was considered pro-China and therefore caused great controversy in Taiwanese society last year. Ko later claimed that the draft had been reviewed and approved by the National Security Council (NSC) beforehand even though the NSC denied this.

In another incident in January 2017, Wang Yen-chiao, a reporter from Storm Media, wrote a report regarding a dispute between the Taipei City Government and contractors for a lantern festival project. Subsequently, the Taipei mayor allegedly prohibited heads of the city government from responding to Wang’s calls for interviews and information.

The IFJ said:

“The pattern of intimidation and harassment of journalists by the Taiwan City Government raises serious questions about the freedom of the press in Taiwan, and the ability of the press to hold those in power to account. We stand in solidarity with ATJ in calling on the government to cease the harassment and boycotting of journalists for simply doing their job."