Justice Minister Lo Ying-shay dismissed Tuesday arguments by protesters that they were participating in civil disobedience when they broke into the Legislature last month to launch what would become a three-week-long occupation.
Because the trade-in-services pact with China — the focus of their protest — has not yet been reviewed and will not necessarily clear the Legislature, the student-led protesters cannot expect to avoid responsibility for breaking the law with claims of civil disobedience, Lo said in response to a reporter’s question during a visit to prosecutors in the eastern county of Taitung.
«The conditions (of the protest) do not constitute civil disobedience,» she said, noting that some who participated in the protest that ended April 10 have demanded prosecutors not collect evidence to form a case against them.
The unprecedented Sunflower Movement protest occupied the Legislature for 24 days before its leaders chose to disband. A group of students also charged into the Executive Yuan, the headquarters of the Cabinet, on March 23, but were removed within hours by police in riot gear.
Lo affirmed that the public can refuse to obey government orders if laws and regulations infringe upon their rights, but added that such demonstrators in other countries tend to admit that they have broken the law and often end up behind bars to prove their point.
She also questioned how protesters on the streets, estimated at between 110,000 and 500,000 at the height of the Sunflower Movement, could represent the people while claiming that the Legislature’s 100-odd lawmakers, elected by 10 million voters, cannot.
«If you dare to challenge the law, you have to take the responsibility,» Lo said.
«The law will be carried out,» she said assertively, her response to comments that law enforcement agencies seemed hesitant about taking actions against illegal behavior on the part of the protesters.
She also commented on Friday’s tense spin-off protest in which demonstrators surrounded a nearby police precinct to demand the precinct chief step down for reneging on a pledge not to remove protesters from the Legislature by force.
The minister said that law enforcement personnel are collecting evidence and will base their understanding of the situation on facts, including how the protesters, who called themselves «passersby,» behaved, rather than simply what they called themselves.