Silent vigil held in Taiwan in memory of Paris attack victims

01/10/2015 09:57 PM
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Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) Hundreds of people gathered at a plaza in Taipei Friday evening for a silent vigil in memory of those killed in an apparent terrorist attack at the office of a satirical magazine in Paris earlier this week.

Organized by the French community in Taiwan, the candlelit vigil took place at Liberty Square in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, where participants gathered in silent tribute to the attack victims and stood up for the freedom of speech.

Despite the chilly night, it drew more than 200 people, including France's representative to Taiwan Olivier Richard and Frederic Laplanche, head of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei.

Many of the participants held up placards with the slogan "Je suis Charlie ("I Am Charlie") in a symbolic declaration of their support of freedom of expression.

The slogan has emerged as a worldwide message of solidarity with the victims of the attack on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo.

"We just hope people to come and express their sorrow for the victims," said Pierre-Yves Baubry, one of the French initiators of the gathering.

"It's also a gathering for freedom of speech. I think it's something Taiwanese people can relate to," the 39-year-old Frenchman, who has been working in Taiwan for 6 years, told CNA.

Many French people were shocked by the attack, he said, adding that he hoped the event will help Taiwanese people better understand what happened in France.

"We heard what happened in France," said Nina Magne, a 16-year-old French native who is studying Chinese in Taiwan. "We have to be here and show our support for our French people."

The event also drew participants from the United Kingdom.

"I am here to express my support for freedom of speech, freedom of expression and also to commemorate the journalists who were killed in the attack," said Matt Bowden, who is from England and has been working in in Taiwan for two and a half years.

"No matter where you are from, freedom of speech is an international value," Bowden, 32, said. The attack in Paris was an attack on freedom of expression, "so people need to stand up and fight back," he said.

In France, a major police operation is underway to arrest the gunmen who launched one of the deadliest attacks on the country in years and fled by car, according to foreign news reports.

The attackers opened fire with assault rifles on the magazine's office and exchanged shots with police on the street outside, killing 12 people, the reports said.

The youngest of the three suspects reportedly has turned himself in to the police, while the other two are said to be holed up in a town in northern France and are thought to have taken a hostage.

[We are Charlie
[We are Charlie
Following Wednesday's attack, French President Francois Hollande visited the scene and denounced what he described as an exceptionally barbaric act.

"No barbaric act will ever stifle the freedom of the press. We stand together as a united country and we will respond," he said, according to a statement posed on the website of the French office in Taiwan.

Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States have condemned the attack.

(By Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/ls

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