Dozens of university students staged a sit-in outside the main gate of National Taiwan University yesterday demanding the release of NTU student Lee Chien-cheng, who is being detained in Hong Kong for social misconduct while attending the protests at the World Trade Organization conference last week.
The students urged Hong Kong authorities to respect the principles of democracy and human rights and to release Lee immediately. They argued that Lee has a non-violent disposition and would not have taken part in the unrest caused by some 1,000 anti-globalization protesters.
"We also demand that the Mainland Affairs Council deal with this as a diplomatic episode and secure Lee's safety," said Lu Chi-hung, a member of the NTU news club, of which Lee, a fourth year Political Sciences major, was also an active participant.
Lee was among 14 people from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and China who were charged by Hong Kong police after taking part in the WTO protests.
According to NTU students who traveled to Hong Kong with Lee last week and who talked with him before returning to Taiwan Monday, Lee had not been provided with warm clothes and had been stripped of his glasses while in detention.
However, after a MAC-appointed attorney group reportedly filed a complaint criticizing the "inhumane treatment of captives" by the Hong Kong police on Tuesday, Lee was finally allowed a hot bath and given thick garments to endure the cold weather.
MAC vice chief You Ying-lung (游盈隆) arrived at NTU yesterday afternoon to pacify the gathered group, but was immediately surrounded by students chanting: "No freedom for Taiwanese, no tourism income for Hong Kong."
You pledged that he would go to Hong Kong himself to negotiate for the release of Lee, but admitted it might be hard for him to do so as it is difficult for MAC officials to obtain visas for Hong Kong. He added, however, that he was confident Lee would be released soon and assured the students that "the government stands by your side." Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) later echoed You's statement at an Executive Yuan news briefing.
Meanwhile, Tsai Jy-jon, director of the MAC's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Department, said the MAC and Taiwan's representative office have established a special squad to deal with Lee's situation and have been working hard to offer Lee all necessary assistance.
Tsai added that Taiwan's representative office in Hong Kong asked for Lee to be released on bail, but the Hong Kong court rejected the request on the grounds that Lee did not have any relatives in Hong Kong nor a residential permit.
According to Tsai, Lee's father visited Lee for several hours yesterday, accompanied by a MAC official. Tsai said Lee had told his father that he was visiting Hong Kong on a tour and had only taken a few pictures of the riot. He did not know why the police were holding him in detention.
"The MAC will collect all information helpful to Lee's cause and present it to the Hong Kong court by tomorrow," said Tsai.
Friends and classmates of Lee also expressed concern for his prospects. "If Lee isn't freed immediately, he could be convicted and might, therefore, have to defer his student status at NTU," a student said at the scene of the protest.
However, Su Tsai-chu, head of the NTU Political Sciences department, said that Lee would retain his student status during his period of absence, while school authorities pledged to foot all the legal bills needed for Lee's release.