Prosecutors have indicted former DPP Chairman and current pan-Blue ally Shih Ming-te for staging an unregistered protest during the faux protests against Chen Shui-bian last year:

Taipei prosecutors indicted former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) and 15 others yesterday for violating the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法) for unregistered protests during last year’s Double Ten National Day.

Shih launched an anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) campaign last August to urge Chen to resign.

On Double Ten National Day, Shih led thousands of red-clad protesters at a rally outside the Taipei Railway Station and claimed to have “besieged” the Presidential Office.

The indictment said the anti-Chen campaign organizers had not applied for a permit from the Taipei City Police Department to hold a parade or rally on Oct. 10 last year, as required by the Assembly and Parade Law.

Prosecutors said the police had put up warning signs and broadcasted requests to the organizers to get their followers to leave, but the protesters refused to move.

Among those indicted with Shih were Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春), People First Party Legislator Shen Chih-hwei (沈智慧), former KMT legislator and Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs Director Lee Yong-ping (李永萍), Taipei City Research & Development Evaluation Commission Emile Sheng (盛治仁) and New Party Taipei City Councilor Lee Hsin (李新).

Nine others were named in the indictment: Chien Hsi-chieh, Liu Kun-li (劉坤鱧), Chang Fu-chung (張富忠), Jerry Fan (范可欽), Wang Li-ping (王麗萍), Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾), former New Party legislator Cheng Lung-shui (鄭龍水), former Chinese Unity Promotion Party chairman Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰), Chinese Culture University professor Yao Li-ming (姚立明) and lawyer John Wei (魏千峰).

If found guilty, the defendants could be sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment.

Maddog has already posted over at Taiwan Matters! on this, with a fantastic collection of links and such. He and I both think this is not a good idea:

1. As Maddog points out, there are much better laws that could be used to take down Shih. Millions of dollars of donations to the campaign remain AWOL, for example. He also notes that

I’m sure there are many other laws that could be more appropriately applied to this case. There was lots of violence involved (including violence against police who didn’t assist with their illegal behavior [original version]), public airwaves were used to communicate directives to the mobs, tens of millions of dollars of cash were collected and remain out of sight, and more.

2. This act turns Shih the clown into Shih the martyr.

3. There are always unregistered protests in Taipei — I was at one a couple of weeks ago right in front of the CKS MemorialContested Memorial in downtown Taipei. They are held by both sides. Unregistered protests, so long as they are peaceable, are things to be encouraged, not deplored.

4. It just invites tit-for-tat retaliation.

5. The law is a relic of the old KMT security state and needs to be revised or replaced. It should certainly not be used.

I hope that Shih and his faux protest buddies receive a slap on the wrist. This is really a bad idea.

Meanwhile, the people who really deserve some kind of punishment are the reporters who time after time refuse to provide international audiences with any of the context they need to understand the protests. AP via the Hindu:

Prosecutors say Shih and the others broke local laws governing assemblies and protests but didn’t say how, Chang said. The maximum penalty they face wasn’t immediately clear. Chang said a trial date hasn’t been set.

The 66-year-old Shih, a veteran democracy activist who spent 25 years in prison during Taiwan’s authoritarian rule under the previous Nationalist administration, said in an e-mail statement he wasn’t surprised by the legal action because he has been jailed by authorities he challenged in the past.

“For someone who always opposes ruling power and devotes his life to the pursuit of democracy, I am not a bit surprised with the outcome,” he said.

Shih defended the protests last year, saying they were always peaceful. No major violence broke out during the demonstrations, although protesters occasionally scuffled with police.

Local TV footage showed several dozen of Shih’s supporters, again clad in red as they did during rallies last year, worshipping at a temple in Taipei, to kick off a new campaign against Chen.

As always, no mention that the protesters were partisans (see Bradsher’s excellent article in the NYT; AP’s reporter here noted that right away last year!), no mention that Shih switched to the anti-democracy side in 2001, no mention of the financial irregularities for which his duped followers have sued him, no mention of his crazed comments about his followers or the DPP, and no mention of the corrupt politicians who showed up in droves to speak to the protesters. The same crap may be found in the Reuters article on the topic. Instead, everything follows the narrative that Jason identified so long ago:

Sadly, this article is one of many cookie-cutter pieces designed to “fit” a narrative that editors seem to have already written: the “Mad Chen”, frustrated by his inability to plunge Taiwan into a war of independence with China, turns to corruption with the help of his Lady MacBeth while the rest of the country suffers in silence. Meanwhile, the selfless freedom fighter Shih returns from the political wilderness to valiantly fight on against his now-fallen student for the good of the Republic. Shit, if this story ends with Chen wearing a menacing black suit and helmet, I’m going to demand my money back.

With all the space wasted on nonsense, you’d think that just once, someone might report what is actually going on. In my Taiwan book on the media, the Shih case is going to be the leadoff case.