By Jason Pan / Staff reporter
Police will act quickly to fend off physical assaults against lawmakers and government officials, and will detain people committing violence around the Legislative Yuan and other government buildings in Taipei, the nation’s top police officers said on Thursday, after they were accused of failing to take immediate action during a protest against pension reform that turned violent on Wednesday.
Following a Cabinet meeting during which Premier Lin Chuan （林全） delivered his demands to the police, National Police Agency （NPA） Director-General Chen Kuo-en （陳國恩） said: “People have the freedom to express their opinions. However, if they violate public order and break the law, we do not condone such behavior and will prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”
After conferring with Chen and other police officers, NPA Deputy Director-General Chou Wen-ke （周文科） called a news conference to announce new measures to be taken at protests near the legislature and other government buildings, including establishing “security corridors” and boosting police presence to ensure the safety of lawmakers and government officials.
“New directives have been sent to unit commanders, whereby they are to enforce the orders to fend off physical assaults and acts of violence, suppress such actions and to detain the perpetrators straight away,” Chou said. “We will also increase the personnel involved in video surveillance and evidence gathering to pursue and apprehend the perpetrators.”
On Wednesday, numerous politicians were surrounded and barred from entering the legislature, while a number of lawmakers from the pan-green camp, as well as heads of cities and counties, were physically assaulted.
News of the assaults led to anger and condemnation of police officers’ perceived inaction and failure to detain the assailants.
Some people accused the police of deliberately being lax in their enforcement of the law.
Democratic Progressive Party （DPP） Legislator Chen Chi-mai （陳其邁） criticized the police.
“We saw lawmakers and prominent politicians being pushed around and punched, but many officers there did little and only recorded the incidents on video. I suspect the NPA’s approach was to allow the lawmakers and other politicians to be assaulted,” Chen said.
New Power Party Legislator Hsu Yung-ming （徐永明）, who was punched and splashed with water, said the assailants were well-prepared and seemed to have information on the police’s security arrangements.
“I felt like I had walked into a trap as the perpetrators assaulted in waves, while targeting individual lawmakers and politicians,” Hsu said. “I was surrounded and grabbed, then they started to punch me. There were quite a few police officers right next to me, but they basically did nothing to deter the perpetrators. If this happens again, then NPA chief Chen must resign to take responsibility.”
DPP Legislator Wang Ting-yu （王定宇） was also attacked and had a plastic water bottle thrown at him.
“This time they threw a water bottle, next time they might throw a brick,” Wang said.
Wang said the government allows people to assemble for protests, “but we cannot give unrestrained freedom to violent perpetrators to carry out attacks. They were impeding public functionaries from their duties and the offense is punishable by law. So police should have stopped them in the act of breaking the law and detained them.”
The NPA yesterday added two people to its list of suspects wanted over the incidents, bringing the total to 28, and released their photographs.
Police said they would question the protest organizers — National Federation of Teachers’ Unions director-general Huang Yao-nan （黃耀南） and National Civil Servant Association director Lee Lai-hsi （李來希） — over allegations they incited protesters to assault lawmakers.