Prosecutors to probe controversial arrest of woman in Taoyuan

04/24/2021 08:27 PM
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Chan Hui-ling (詹慧玲), a music teacher, is interrogated by the police on Thursday / CNA photo April 24, 2021
Chan Hui-ling (詹慧玲), a music teacher, is interrogated by the police on Thursday / CNA photo April 24, 2021

Taoyuan, April 24 (CNA) Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office on Saturday said it had opened an investigation into the arrest on Thursday of a woman who refused to answer an officer's questions after apparently being stopped at random.

In a press release, the office said it had interrogated music teacher Chan Hui-ling (詹慧玲) at the request of police on Thursday on suspicion of obstructing a public official during an encounter in the city's Zhongli District earlier that day.

However, in an apparent nod to public scrutiny over the police's aggressive questioning of Chan, the office said that the case is being reviewed and asked the public to be patient until the investigation concludes.

In the incident in question, a police officer with the Zhongli Precinct approached Chan as she walked near Zhongli train station and attempted to question her, asking her name, if she lived nearby, and whether she was carrying identification.

CNA video

When Chan asked why she had come under suspicion, the officer explained he was worried that "someone reported you missing," apparently having assumed she was an unaccounted for migrant worker, a partial video of the encounter released by the police shows.

After Chan refused to answer the questions, a dispute broke out in which the video shows her using the words "really stupid" and when the officer asked if she was calling him stupid, Chan replied "what you did violated..." before the officer said "ok, well you've just called me stupid." The video clip stops a few seconds later.

The officer later arrested her for obstructing a public official.

In Facebook posts since the incident, Chan has argued that the police did not have grounds to question her, and accused them of abusing their power by slamming her to the ground, handcuffing her and holding her at a police station for questioning.

In response to Chan's accusations, police on Friday released the partial video of the encounter.

They said the incident occurred in a high-crime area where patrols are conducted more frequently, and argued that the officer's questioning of Chan and request to see her ID were within the law, citing Subparagraph 6 of Article 6 of the Police Power Exercise Act.

According to Subparagraph 6, the police may verify the identity of people who pass through designated public places, road sections and check points. It says the designation shall be made "only when considered necessary to prevent crimes or deal with events that may effect major public safety or social order," but adds that the designation "shall be determined by supervisors in charge."

The police have declined to release footage showing Chan being restrained and handcuffed, saying they will provide it to prosecutors.

However, videos of the arrest were widely circulated online, which appeared to show the officer throwing Chan to the ground and handcuffing her as she screamed in panic.

Chan has called for the police to release the full video of her arrest.

The incident has drawn considerable attention in Taiwan, where police conduct is closely scrutinized, in part because of the country's many years under martial law.

On Friday night, Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said he had asked both the National Police Agency and the Taoyuan Police Department to conduct an internal investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile, Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), said he had instructed city police to hand over video footage and other relevant evidence to prosecutors, to allow them to provide an "objective, third party" assessment of the case.

(By Yeh Chen and Matthew Mazzetta)

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