TAIPEI, Taiwan - Presidential Office spokesperson Garfie Li (李佳霏) yesterday issued a statement rejecting reports that the president had personally ordered law enforcement officers and security forces to refrain from deploying nets designed to catch shoes hurled by demonstrators.
Recent reports suggested that President Ma Ying-jeou did not think highly of the shoe catching nets that were deployed at his every public engagement, and had subsequently ordered their removal.
According to Li, the president has elected to follow the professional threat assessment advisory of the National Security Bureau (國安局). In addition, the president instructed detachments of national security elements to assist local police in providing crowd control and protection details for heads of states for his upcoming public engagements, said Li. The level of enforcement in the endeavour will be based on precedents in security enforcement, Li added.
Whether shoe catching nets will be deployed remains the domain of local law enforcement and national security forces, said Li. The decision are usually based on parameters including the distance between potentially threatening mobs and the president, the level of access restriction imposed on the venue, and the severity of grievances being voiced by demonstrators, said Li. According to Li, prior to each of the president's public engagements, an analysis of the venue is conducted and contingency plans formed, with national security forces ready to react to rapidly evolving conditions on the ground.
Citing previous events, the Presidential Office yesterday emphasised that the decision to deploy nets remains the domain of local police and national security forces. For example, the nets were not deployed during Ma's recent visit to the Asia University in Taichung, as the campus was relatively secure with demonstrators held at bay off-campus. Similarly, in another event on Oct. 26th, security forces deemed the threat level to be at a minimal, as participants were all members of or aligned to the ruling party.
The Presidential Office yesterday concluded its statement by urging the public to not fixate on whether shoe catching nets are deployed or not.
Meanwhile, the police recently rejected reports indicating that they had spent nearly NT$500,000 on 149 shoe catching nets, stating that only 60 of such nets were procured. A lawmaker aligned to the Taiwan Solidarity Union (台聯) remarked that the outbreak of shoe-throwing attacks represents the consequences of Ma's dwindling approval ratings, and that the burden of expense for the nets should be drawn from his personal funds, instead of the national budget.