Taipei City government to initiate further appeal against Panai

Indigenous singer Panai Kusui (right) / CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Taipei Parks and Street Lights Office has decided to proceed with a third appeal against and other protesters for violating a park ordinance and not paying fines for their violation, the office said in a press release Monday.

The Taipei District Court ruled in favor of the office in an initial court battle on Jan. 21 this year and a first appeal by the protesters over the fines on Feb. 20, before the office lost its second appeal on July 27.

According to the office, it deemed that the different results of the first and second verdicts were led by dissenting legal opinions, which should be resolved through a further appeal to assure the consistency of the law and clarify the legitimacy of the local government.

According to the city government, before fining Panai for violating Article 13 of the Taipei City Park Management Ordinance for setting up tables, chairs, cabinets and other structures at Taipei’s 228 Peace Park without permission, the Taipei Parks and Street Lights Office had tried to take a softer approach many times from April to July in 2019.

However, the office later issued three fines totaling NT$7,200 (US$245.1), since Panai and the other protesters were unwilling to move away from the park, the office said.

For more than three years, Panai and her group have staunchly opposed a regulation defining and zoning what can be classified as Indigenous peoples’ “traditional territories and lands” enacted by the Council of Indigenous Peoples in February 2017.

The regulation was enacted after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) promised in 2016 to delineate Indigenous traditional territory and land. It was made during an official apology to Indigenous peoples for past abuses on Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Aug. 1, 2016.

Panai and others criticized the regulation, saying it excluded privately held land, which limited where they could hold traditional activities.

The Council of Indigenous Peoples rejected the call, arguing that including private land in traditional aboriginal territory would violate the right of property under the Constitution.

Since then, Panai and other activists have maintained a protest site at the 228 Peace Park.

The Taipei District Court ruled in favor of the Taipei City government at the first appeal, stating that Panai’s setting up of equipment at the park without permission violated Article 13 of the Taipei City Park Management Ordinance.

Although Panai’s behavior did not cause any damage to the park or put passers-by at risk, the behavior affected the public’s right to use the park and hindered the office from managing the park, according to the Taipei District Court.

The court also added that Panai’s behavior was not what Article 11 and 14 of the Constitution guaranteed for the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly and association.

However, the Taipei District Court ruled in favor of Panai at the second appeal on July 27 and overturned the fines.

The park said that since the first and second verdicts were ruled under the same conditions but had different results, it is necessary to clarify some conflicting points and the principle of the law.

Taipei City councilors, along with the deputy of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, called for the Taipei Parks and Street Lights Office not to appeal the verdict, in order to protect assembly rights, and demanded amendments to the Taipei City Park Management Ordinance.

The office fined Panai and other protesters for violating Article 13 of the Ordinance, but the verdict was revoked as unconstitutional by the court at the end of July, Taiwan Association for Human Rights legal department director Wang Si (王曦) noted.