Taiwan’s best known democracy advocate, Aquia Tsay, was assaulted by Republic of China in-exile police yesterday at a demonstration at the central Taipei railway station. The Feb. 8 incident occurred when police responded to a peaceful protest against the continued imprisonment of former ROC president Chen Shui-bian.
Aquia was leading a group of Chen supporters urging the release of the ailing former leader from custody when he was surrounded by police and ordered to leave. Aquia stood his ground and the assault commenced. One policeman put a chokehold around Aquia’s neck forcing him to the ground. The attack on Aquia was caught on film.
Chen Shui-bian has been imprisoned four years for alleged corruption after a controversial trial marred by procedural irregularities, changed judges, and perjured testimony. Many Taiwanese consider Chen a political prisoner for his advocacy of Taiwan independence.
Taiwan is governed by the exiled Chinese Nationalists imposed on the island by the United States after World War II. Denied membership in the United Nations, the island is caught in a decades-old “strategic ambiguity” that keeps its international status unresolved. Taiwan is even excluded from membership in the World Health Organization and its athletes had to compete in the 2012 Olympics under the “Chinese Taipei” banner.
Aquia Tsay is chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, a group seeking self-determination for the island. Aquia also co-chairs the Taiwan Justice Rescue Force which is calling for a reform of the ROC judicial system to include jury trials and the release of Chen Shui-bian from prison.
Chen Shui-bian has served his four years in harsh prison conditions which have broken his health and he is now confined to a government hospital cell in a psychiatric unit.
Aquia’s last run in with Taipei police in December sent him to the hospital with a concussion. Aquai and other members of the Taiwan Justice Rescue Force were doing set-up work for the Democracy Camp encampment outside the presidential office building when they were violently pulled from their car by police and thrown to the pavement.
Democracy Camp was a four-day protest to coincide with International Human Rights Day and followed a month-long march around Taiwan by members of the Taiwan Justice Rescue Force.
In 2009, Aquia Tsay was also attacked by ROC police at a Taipei political rally and ended up in the hospital. None of the assaults on Aquia by police have resulted in any arrests of the officers involved. Aquia, a champion of nonviolence, has never been charged for raising a hand against police, even in self-defense.
The latest assault on Aquia Tsay at the train station was over Aquia’s request that Chen Shui-bian be released for the lunar new year. Ma Ying-jeou, who succeeded Chen in office, has refused to consider release or medical parole for the ailing Chen.
Next: More ROC police violence against Chen Shui-bian supporters