Chen Feng-sheng (陳豐盛)
Taipei, March 20 (CNA) A Cabinet minister's allegation of the existence of a "police state" in Taipei has sparked a heated argument about the enforcement of police duties and the protection of human rights.
Hakka Affairs Council chief Lee Yung-te（李永得）said on Sunday that several police officers stopped him and asked him to show his identification while he was going to buy beverages at a convenience store inside the Taipei Bus Station in downtown Taipei that day.
"When did Taipei become a police state? That's too ridiculous!" Lee wrote in a Facebook post.
The post triggered a huge number of responses from netizens, with many saying that the police officers were only enforcing the law.
"What are the police for if they cannot conduct spot checks?" one of them questioned.
Some, however, expressed their support for Lee.
"That was not surprising. The attitude of Taiwanese police has never been good," a netizen said.
Responding to Lee's charge, Chen Feng-sheng (陳豐盛), a captain at the Taipei City Police Department's Mobile Division, said Monday that Lee was seen exiting the convenience store wearing flip-flops as several officers from the division were patrolling the first floor of the Taipei Bus Station.
They decided to approach Lee and ask him to show his identification because he kept looking at them, which made them feel suspicious, according to Chen.
The officers let Lee go in less than five minutes even though he refused to produce his identification, Chen said.
The Mobile Division said, meanwhile, that it has made the Taipei Bus Station a focus of law enforcement because many criminal acts have been detected there in recent years.
Since May 2016, the police has uncovered 419 criminal cases at the site, most of which involved narcotics and fugitives, the division said.
It said it will examine if improvements are needed in the skills and attitude of police in conducting spot checks.
Lee's wife Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩), a legislator from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), described the explanation provided by the police as "outrageous."
She said it was totally unacceptable that someone should be checked just because he is buying two beverages at a convenience store wearing flip-flops.
In a new Facebook post on Monday, Lee defended himself, citing an interpretation by the Constitutional Court about spot checks conducted by police.
He said that according to the interpretation, the police are not authorized to conduct spot checks arbitrarily, without regard for the time, venue and subject.
Checks targeting places should be limited to those where hazards have occurred and those believed to be prone to problems occurring, based on objective, reasonable judgments, he said.
Before carrying out spot checks on individuals, there should be sufficient reasons to believe their conduct has constituted or is about to cause hazards, he said.
Also, police officers conducting the checks should show their identification and inform their targets of the reasons why they are being checked, Lee said.
Deputy Interior Minister Chiu Chang-yueh (邱昌嶽) said, meanwhile, that police officers should make sure they abide by the principle of proportionality and not infringe on personal freedoms when enforcing the law.
Coming to the police's defense, former Central Police University professor Yeh Yu-lan (葉毓蘭) said that if mobile police officers are not allowed to have reasonable suspicions or conduct spot checks at specific venues in accordance with the Police Duty Act, the security of citizens will be undermined.
Unlike detectives and administrative police, mobile police need to use their sharp observation skills and spot checks to uncover criminal activity, she argued.
Tang Te-ming（唐德明), a spokesman for the opposition Kuomintang, said his party unconditionally supports any enforcement of the law that is justified.
If enforcing the law will make Taiwan a "police state," then Taiwan might very well become a "totalitarian state" if the DPP-proposed National Public Security Act is passed by the Legislature, he said.
(By You Kai-hsiang, Wu Hsin-yun, Liang Pei-chi, Liu Kuan-ting and