Protesters in Taiwan are speaking out against what they call a violent suppression of a peaceful demonstration outside the island's government headquarters on March 23, 2014 that left protesters, doctors and journalists injured.
The demonstration was in response to President Ma Ying-jeou's first press conference about the ongoing occupation of Taiwan's legislature. Protesters took over the Legislative Yuan on March 18 after a controversial trade agreement with China was passed in committee and brought to the floor without a promised clause-by-clause review.
In the press conference [zh], Ma reiterated the importance of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement for Taiwan's economy and called the protesters’ occupation illegal. He did not respond to protesters’ demands [zh], and members of the movement expressed their disappointment afterward in their own press conference. Later that day, some protesters occupied the Executive Yuan to continue to pressure the government.
The occupation this time was suppressed by riot police with rods and water cannons. The heavy-handed actions of the police shocked many at the scene, and some in response blackened their profile photos on Facebook and Twitter in protest.
Fang Wei-Li, one of the young protesters, explained [zh] on Facebook why she was frustrated with President Ma's performance in the press conference and why she decided to join the occupation at the Executive Yuan:
When blindly following a strategy of peace doesn't lead us to where we want to go, sticking with such a comfortable strategy doesn't make our stance firm, but instead exposes our weakness. I believe that I am not the only one who thinks so. Many people must share the same thought.
The occupation of the Executive Yuan was nevertheless peaceful. Yet, the government mobilized police from all over Taiwan to evict the protesters. The police forced the voluntary medical team and journalists to leave before they took action.
A protester from a publication house called Editions du Flaneur, described [zh] the eviction scene in the publication house's Facebook account:
I was evicted forcibly along with other protesters by the anti-riot police. These police officers could not stand by the people. They wore black armor and had long rods in their hands. The police blocked the path to the backdoor of the Executive Yuan with shields. They moved like soldiers as if they were attacking an enemy. The chief commander sat in a police vehicle protected by a transparent shield. He kept giving commands to the armed force to move forward via a loudspeaker. [...] I saw there were water tanks but did not see them move the tanks. I also did not hear the police give a warning to the students, such as “we will evict you with force”. I only heard students screaming and saw them bleeding. The seriously injured ones were carried away by ambulances, and others were sent away by police vehicles.
On March 24 2014, the Taiwan Journalists Association made a public statement [zh] that more than ten journalists were violently beaten by police. They said many reporters were evicted before the police took action to remove the protesters [zh] and believed that such action had violated freedom of the press.
The medical team was also forced to leave before the eviction. Wei Liulin, one of the doctors volunteering at the Legislative Yuan, described the scene outside the Executive Yuan:
The police evicted our temporary medical station set up in the street opposite to the Executive Yuan around midnight and demanded that all medical personnel leave. We said that since the confrontation is ongoing, we should stand by in case anyone got hurt. However, the police ordered us to leave or they would handcuff us all. Considering the safety of my colleagues, we left the emergency station humiliated.
Another doctor, Du Ying-Yue, stayed behind at the site during the eviction of protesters and was beaten by the police [zh]. He managed to help some of the injured protesters. Below is his witness account concerning an injured protester [zh] who he helped:
剛剛評估後送了一個被警察打到unconscious,bilateral wheezing +stridor,還外加focal seizure,送台大去了
I just evaluated a protester who was beaten by the police. His condition: unconscious, bilateral wheezing with stridor and focal seizure. He was sent to the National Taiwan University Hospital.
The medical team set up another temporary emergency station a bit further away from the Executive Yuan, and they reported [zh] that the police may have used pepper spray:
不是催淚瓦斯，因為並未伴隨其他噁心症狀，只有流鼻涕及眼淚，推測為辣椒水；受傷民眾表示，部分警察驅離時使用綠油精塗抹民眾眼睛，醫護站證實民眾眼睛的確被綠油精 [zh] 塗抹。
It is not tear gas because the victims did not have symptoms like nausea. They only had running nose and tears. We think it may be pepper spray. Some victims said that the police spread some green oil onto their eyes. The station confirmed that their eyes were smeared with green oil.
Although most journalists were evicted before the suppression began, many photos and testimonies from protesters, reporters, lawyers and doctors have circulated online.