Vietnamese workers protest migrant's death by police shooting

09/04/2017 10:30 PM
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Taipei, Sept. 4 (CNA) Dozens of Vietnamese migrant workers and labor rights activists protested in front of the National Police Agency (NPA) in Taipei on Monday over the shooting death of a Vietnamese worker on Aug. 31, demanding a thorough investigation of the case to determine if excessive police force was used.

The protesters shouted slogans and held placards that read "police violence" and "investigate excessive use of force," and called for surveillance footages or other images of the shooting, if any, to be released.

The deceased Vietnamese worker, Nguyen Quoc Phi, was shot dead by a police officer in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan on Aug. 31 after Nguyen allegedly attacked the authorities who tried to stop him from vandalizing and stealing from a car, according to the statement released by the NPA on Monday.

According to the NPA, the Jhubei Precinct of Hsinchu County Police Bureau received a tip-off on Aug. 31 about an alleged case of theft and vandalism, and a police officer, surnamed Chen, was dispatched to the scene along with a civil defense personnel, surnamed Lee.

The duo found Nguyen, a 27-year-old "runaway" migrant worker, allegedly vandalizing and stealing from a car and tried to stop him, but Nguyen attacked the authorities, fracturing the nose and bruising the face of Lee, and damaging the police baton, according to the agency.

The police used pepper spray in an attempt to subdue Nguyen.

Then, according to the Hsinchu police on Aug. 31, the migrant worker ran to an irrigation ditch in a paddy field to wash his eyes. Afterwards, he picked up stones in the ditch and threw them at the two men trying to arrest him, Hsinchu police said.

The migrant worker then tried to enter the police patrol car, the NPA said, adding that Chen then fired nine shots at Nguyen to contain the situation.

The Vietnamese worker was rushed to the hospital, but was later pronounced dead, the agency said.

At the protest on Monday, Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮), a researcher at the Taiwan International Workers' Association, questioned if it was necessary for the police to fire nine shots, six of which struck Nguyen.

She called for any surveillance tapes or dashboard camera footage to be released, saying it is the only way to prove that the Vietnamese worker posed such great threat that he had to be shot in order to be stopped.

"If the exact same scenario involved a Taiwanese citizen or a white person, would the police handle the situation in the same way?" asked Yibee Huang (黃怡碧), chief executive officer of Covenants Watch.

Also at the protest, 28-year-old Vietnamese migrant worker Nguyen Viet Ca (no relation), who works in a chemical plant, said he was sad and angry to hear about the worker's death.

"Sometimes I walk on the streets and the Taiwan police will ask to check my Resident Certificate. I feel afraid," Nguyen told CNA. "I hope the Taiwanese government will treat migrant workers fairly and with respect."

He also urged the authorities to investigate the case and give the family of the deceased reasonable compensation.

"We are just in Taiwan to work. We want to be treated fairly and respectfully like everyone else," he said.

(Nguyen Viet Ca, front left)

Nguyen Duy Thong (no relation), a 25-year-old Vietnamese migrant worker who also attended the protest, said many of his friends are "runaway" workers because they cannot afford the high brokerage fees of around US$6,500-US$7,000.

The long work hours and low wages are also reasons why they run away from their jobs, he said.

"Migrant workers come to Taiwan to do jobs that Taiwanese people don't want to do. For example, heavy labor jobs and jobs that expose them to toxic substances," said another protestor, a 39-year-old Vietnamese migrant worker who declined to be named.

Chen Hung-yao (陳鴻堯), a section chief at the NPA, received the petition letter from the protesters on Monday.

He said the Hsinchu police has handed the case over to the prosecutors and will cooperate with the investigation. The police will also assist the family of the deceased and the Vietnam Economic and Cultural office in Taipei in handling the aftermath of the incident, Chen said.

Nguyen Duy Thong said the problem with runaways stems from the high fees the Vietnamese government allows brokers to deduct from the migrants.

"Why do migrants run away and become illegal? It's because the brokers' fees are so high. ... The migrants feel they have to become illegal so they can keep more of their earnings," he said.

When contacted by telephone later, the NPA declined to comment on specifics related to the case, saying it is now under investigation.

(police at the protest site)

(By Christie Chen)

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