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Two protesters run down by police car in yesterday’s protest in Taiwan

18/05/2009

During the protest on 17th May (Tim did an excellent job blogging about the big rally and collecting all the relevant posts and information), two elderly protesters (aged 67 and 68) were run down by a police car and got gravely injured. One of them had to have a foot or leg amputated and the other one is suffering from a severe brain haemorrhage and pneumothorax. The police car must have been way over the normal speed to cause this level of injuries.

Jerome Keating succinctly summarised the incident and the issues surrounding this incident:

“… After the anti-Ma Ying-jeou protests on May 17, two elderly protesters were run down by a speeding police car. The two were crossing the street in a guarded area where no cars should have been. The officer driving the car made no effort to stop (CJ: there were no tyre marks to suggest that the driver use the brake) and probably would have kept going if the nearby crowds had not surrounded the car. This was no grazing of a pedestrian; it was an out and out hit. One of the men was flipped into the air and came down breaking the windshield of the car. Both men are in critical condition and if they die, a case could be made for manslaughter. Is Ma trying to re-establish a KMT police state? Taiwan citizens wait to see how the Ma and KMT stalwart, Mayor Hau of Taipei, will try to explain away this one.”

Taipei city councillor, Huang Hsiang-chun, went to the scene and the police station and said on a radio programme that Police chiefs and higher ranking officers were very quick at pushing the driver, a young police officer, to take all the blame rather than taking a more objective and measured approach. The DPP has demanded that they also participate in the investigation as many doubt the independence, objectivity and integrity of the police authority.

Mayor Hau apologised to the public three times and emphasised that this was negligence rather than an intentional act. Frank Hsieh told the press while visiting the two protesters and their families in the hospitals that Hau should promise and ensure a proper investigation before drawing any conclusions. Otherwise, it would give the impression that he was trying to minimise responsibilities and displace the blame. A radio presenter, who knows Taipei well, pointed out that the scene was actually outside of those 2 officers’ petrol area. Even if they were on their way back to their own area, they should have driven through another route. The road where it happened was actually the long way round. He also raised more questions. For example, the driver was not alone in the car. He had a senior partner in the car and why didn’t the senior partner tell him to slow him down? Why didn’t the two officers call an ambulance, look at the victims and secure the scene first instead of hiding in their car while waiting for backup? Some said that they were scared of the protesters around. Well, were they not trained police officers who know how to handle critical situations? What were they told when they called for backup?

The Talking Show discussed this case in-depth tonight and some points were made as follows:

Today, Taipei City Councillor, Chien Yuyen questioned the police authority why the police officer did not brake. The police chief said that stopping the car is not the most important thing if the officer was rushing for a duty. The young officer claimed that the two elderly men suddenly stepped out of the curb and ran to the middle of the road so that he didn’t have time to react. If it was negligence, the young officer has not received any penalty or suspended. Instead, he’s taken 2 days leave.

Whichever way we think about it, there are a lot of questions that have to be answered.

UPDATE: DPP also has a post about this incident.

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