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Taiwanese arrested at WTO, says group

Protesters detained by Hong Kong police include NGO workers from labor groups

Taiwanese arrested at WTO, says group
The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters yesterday confirmed that seven Taiwanese, including the organization's secretary general Wang Yung-ping, was among some 900 protesters detained in the demonstration opposing the World Trade Organization early yesterday morning in Hong Kong.

Other detainees included an executive official from the COSWAS as well as representatives from the Taiwan International Workers' Association and the Taiwanese Council of Making Active Laws for Laborers.

"The Hong Kong armed forces called them rioters," said a COSWAS staff. "But they were there to appeal to the WTO for its violation of human rights, so how could they be rioters?" she added.

The WTO is responsible for making policies that have resulted in the polarization of the economies around the globe, said COSWAS. It added that the women in poverty-stricken nations are often forced into the sex service industry to make a living, but the rest of the world, supporting the WTO, turn their backs on these people's human and labor rights.

COSWAS further explained the statement by adding that the WTO granted exclusive manufacturing rights of medications for the treatment of AIDS only to a few advanced countries, which retail the drugs at high costs unaffordable by the sex service workers in undeveloped countries.

"The WTO is an organization that feeds the rich by taking from the poor," declared COSWAS. "We hereby urge the police to release (our) people immediately."

According to local reports, a total of 25 Taiwanese went to Hong Kong last week to attend the anti-WTO march that was scheduled for yesterday, but eleven returned to the country on Friday.

An official from the Hong Kong police force reportedly said the 900 detained protestors were mainly farmers from South Korea, but some Taiwanese, Indonesians and local citizens from Hong Kong were also included.

On Saturday, some 1,000 protesters split into smaller groups, running from the police for several blocks before returning to the convention center and pushing forward, inching within 100 meters of the convention center entrance on Saturday night.

According to foreign agencies, the riot police resorted to gas masks and propped up riot shields as they sprayed tear gas and pepper spray on the crowd. Forty-one people were reported injured in Saturday's clashes.

Police eventually controlled the situation, but the protesters refused to leave. Around 3:30 a.m. yesterday, police moved into the crowd and dragged the activists out into nearby police vans. The remaining protestors were dispersed by yesterday afternoon.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 protesters showed up at the conference, which took place in downtown Hong Kong, but only a portion of them participated in Saturday's violence. However, local media have coined the event "one of the worst demonstrations Hong Kong has experienced since 1967."