Sunday, August 24, 2008

Foreigner Victimized by Gun toting tough in Taichung

First, the letter in its entirety, printed up in the Taipei Times.

+++++++++++++++
While the Taiwanese judicial system is busy prosecuting the Chen family, justice as a lived reality on the streets of Taichung took a sad and predictable turn this week.

A foreigner, fired upon with a BB gun, accosted the assailant, who then shot him seven times, including three times in the face. The victim used the assailant’s gun case as protection and then, when close enough, hit the shooter with the case.

The assailant ran to his parked SUV, produced a 9mm hand pistol and pointed it at the victim. After questioning the authenticity of the weapon, the assailant pulled out the clip to prove that it was real, whereupon the victim grabbed the clip and threw it into the canal.

The angered assailant then threatened to shoot the foreigner with the remaining bullet. A nearby sausage vendor with a clear view of the incident refused to help or intervene.

When the police arrived, they did not carry out a full forensic search of the assailant’s vehicle and they passed around evidence without gloves, even permitting the assailant to handle it at times. They did not question the assailant’s girlfriend or the sausage vendor.

The foreigner did not have his statement taken for more than six hours. In the meantime, the assailant gave a statement and was allowed to fall asleep two tables away from the pistol and single bullet, lying unsecured.

Later in the morning, the assailant sued the victim for damage to his property (the illegal clip of ammunition) and insulting behavior.

The foreigner was asked to sign an admission that he was an active criminal involved in an assault. This was part of a form that would allow him to press charges against the assailant.

Paradoxically, the prosecutor for the case was more sympathetic than the legal counsel, who mainly acted as a translator in the courtroom.

In court, a judge repeated the charges. Despite a sense that a threat on his life was not being taken seriously, the foreigner chose to defend himself and argued his case well enough to be cleared of all charges.

The judge ordered the assailant to give the victim compensation, to be agreed by negotiation, but then — unbelievably — the legal counsel wanted to give the victim’s phone number to the assailant so that he could discuss compensation directly.

As a result of being shot on a quiet night in the center of Taichung, this foreigner also lost his job when his school’s administrators, supposedly fearful of gang-related retaliation, canceled his work permit. He may now have to leave Taiwan.

With Taichung again rated as Taiwan’s most crime-ridden city, its mayor’s pride in his accomplishments and his description of it as retaining “friendliness and warm-heartedness” seem out of sync and prematurely self-congratulatory.

We need to look beyond these rhetorical flourishes and diversionary sound bites and hold leaders to account for the grimy reality they tolerate, not the one that their spin would have us believe.

BEN GOREN
+++++++++++++

I happened to have coffee with Ben yesterday at the Early Bird diner, a great place for American breakfast all day long, where you can always find foreigners hanging out. He told me that the foreigner in question, W., had been standing with a group of foreigners when the tough guy began sniping at them with a BB gun. Apparently he was drinking with his friends. UPDATED: Not in a vehicle as I originally heard. Not certain it was a Glock.

Ordinarily one might wonder what had started this behavior, but frankly it makes no sense that if they had somehow provoked him, he gets out a BB gun and starts shooting at them at long range. Provocation calls for an up-close-and-personal response. I think this is simply another case of one of Taiwan's darker sides: abuse of foreigners. As another friend of mine pointed out, in a western country, had someone stopped to abuse a group of foreigners with a weapon, it would immediately have been classed as a hate crime.

W. then ran up to the guy, getting shot repeatedly in the face and bleeding profusely, as face wounds will, and grabbed the case from the BB gun and started to bash the guy with it. Being a real tough guy, he turned tail, ran back to the car, and grabbed a 9mm. As he waved it in W.'s face, W. shouted "Is it real?" in his limited Chinese. Seeking to prove it, and evidently not very bright, the tough guy ejected the clip and showed it to W., whereupon W. snatched from his hand and flung it in a nearby canal. There was, however, one round left in the chamber. The police refused to search for the clip, Ben told me, when they couldn't "prove" the 9 mm was a real gun.

Taichung has a terrible reputation for crime. Something needs to be done.

UPDATE: I should add that if something like this happens to you, leave. These people are violent, completely without scruple, and revenge-driven. There's no way you can win. They can easily get your address and other personal information from the police and pay you a visit. Unless your life is at stake, retreat should be mandated. Confrontations will only end, as in this case, with you as a victim.

71 comments:

Thomas said...

Send Ma in. He'll have Taichung fixed up in a jiffy....probably due to some negotiations with the CCP...

Andrew said...

"in a western country, had someone stopped to abuse a group of foreigners with a weapon, it would immediately have been classed as a hate crime."

An even closer assessment might be that as as long as Taiwan denies the existence of true Taiwanese multiculturalism as opposed to the silly 4 ethnic groups model, this type of incident will only be repeated.

Taiwan desperately needs to improve education, without caveat, of the real ethnic diversity here on Taiwan and this means scrapping the current model of Han chauvinism, to a more neutral space. Under the KMT... this is not going to happen. It would be "desinicization"...

Anonymous said...

I'm very pleased that an article like this has appeared in this blog rather than the usual lets blame Ma for everything stories that have appeared for the past months.

Bryan said...

Michael,

Your advice at the end of your post is very good, and I think that anyone living abroad ought to keep that in their head whether they're in Taiwan, Italy, Algeria, Argentina or Japan.

You may think that the assailant is a little punk and that it might be able to teach 'em a lesson, but the assailant might just be the son of an MP or a judge or a high-level police commissioner. There is no support network while abroad, and despite what the movies show, your country's embassy does not care about you and is not there to help you if you get in trouble. You're in a sovereign land and unless you are a government employee of your country, you really are on your own.

Maoman said...

Is their anyway we can make a more public stink about this? And how can I help?

Jeremy said...

Michael,

Have we got all the facts? What time did this happen? Was alcohol involved? Sounds like some parts of the story may be missing? Gangsters usually only get involved with foreigners when they feel their pride has been injured in some way. I wonder what happened to this gangster? Brandishing firearms in public is an imprisonable offence. Just look at Yen Ching Biao.

Anonymous said...

I often pass by a police station near my office in Taipei, and observe on a daily basis any number of traffic violations committed in the presence of both the station and the officers who are sometimes outside the station.

I once asked a Taiwanese friend who knows several policemen why the local police are so lackadaisical about enforcing the law. In a nutshell, he told me that there is very little motivation to be a "good cop," because most everyone is a very mediocre cop. Those who actually work actively to make their neighborhoods safer become outcasts among their peers. He said that there are several systemic problems that lead to this sense of ennui among Taiwanese cops.

The bottom line is, enforcement is spotty at best. This case serves to illustrate that.

Another thing point this case illustrates is the fact that anti-foreigner racism in Taiwan, while not usually so aggressive, exists in more than just a few corners. I'm not suggesting that we walk around Taiwan feeling nervous and hated, but a bit of caution is unfortunately necessary.

Michael Turton said...

I'm very pleased that an article like this has appeared in this blog rather than the usual lets blame Ma for everything stories that have appeared for the past months.

I've tried not to have Ma stories on here, but inevitably, given the pace of the rollback of the democratic transition and the rapid decline of our foreign policy, they've appeared. But I'll try to keep other stuff flowing here.

Michael

Andrew said...

Furthermore... "foreigners" have very little power in the way of advocacy and make easy, unprotected victims.
White foreigners have even less organization, protection and political advocacy than "foreign brides" (Vietnamese, Filipina, Chinese and Indonesian) who actually have organized assistance groups that work to lobby for their collective rights.
As long as foreigners are viewed politically as temporary "visitors" and not "residents" you can expect the brush-off if you are victimized.

Anonymous said...

I often pass by a police station near my office in Taipei, and observe on a daily basis any number of traffic violations committed in the presence of both the station and the officers who are sometimes outside the station.

>Ain't that the truth.

Another thing point this case illustrates is the fact that anti-foreigner racism in Taiwan, while not usually so aggressive, exists in more than just a few corners.

>Ain't that the truth too.

Racism is here and its wide spread, just like most places in the world. It's been kept in check because of the relationship TWN/CA/UK/AU has with the US, but I think if the economy gets worse, the racism will pick up.

Don said...

I'm really disappointed to hear about this incident, and the fact that there are now Taiwan street punks who seem to be immune to arrest and prosecution.

During the 1970s, when I lived in Taipei, I sometimes went for late-night walks around the city and never once feared for my own safety. If there was violent crime there, I never heard about it.

Are handguns now allowed in Taiwan? If so, I assume that it's like here in the States where gun-related crimes aren't usually committed by registered gun owners. Thugs, on the other hand, aren't concerned about gun laws.

How concerned should tourists be about this sort of thing? Is Taiwan now like some American cities where tourists are safe...in certain areas...during the day...while traveling in groups?

Anonymous said...

On the flip-side, I've met plenty of mainly white male foreigners in Taiwan that are very racist and condescending towards the general population of Taiwan. In fact, I wonder why the percentage is so high when it takes a lot for someone to move to Taiwan. Or actually, with that kind of mentality, they must get a good rush out of being in a sea of "lesser beings".

That said, the thing that struck me most about this whole story is the same as the advice you gave at the end--why in the world was he putting up a fight? You're getting shot at painfully by a BB gun, and very likely, there could be bats, or in this case, a gun, in addition to that. Why? Not that any of this was his fault (even if it were true he was provoking a fight), but he was very, very lucky that all he had were BB gun flesh wounds and not something life-threatening. Very lucky.

Anonymous said...

"As long as foreigners are viewed politically as temporary "visitors" and not "residents" you can expect the brush-off if you are victimized."

Andrew--I suspect if there were a larger population that was here permanently, there would be organization, and thus a politically active organization there to advocate for our needs.

Otherwise, the stereotype is largely true, though unfortunate when there are quite a few foreigners that are long-time and permanent residents of Taiwan.

Andrew said...

It seems this incident has eluded most of the lazy journalists in the Taiwanese media who spend their time chasing stars and inventing rumors about Chen's family or buying foreign news stories from other syndicates... rather than doing any real journalism. Has anyone seen this incident reported in the local news?

Chewycorns said...

Those of us who have spent years and years in Taiwan are familiar with the country's positive attributes. The hardworking people, the beautiful women, low taxes, the island's natural beauty in places etc. However, I'm often suprised how many apologists underplay the lawlessness that is definitely a noticeable part of the island experience, particularly in the South.

There have been a lot of crimes agains foreigners wherein the government has not investigated thoroughly. For example, what about the Converse Asia executive whose wife was killed in her house back in Taichung in the late 1990s? Have they ever caught the murderers of the wife of the head of Converse Asia? She was killed in 1997 in front of her two children in her house in a gated community with private security guards. This international executive stayed in Taiwan for a year afterwards trying to get the government to do something. Complete waste of time. Somehow someone got in with a truck, stole their big TV etc. etc., murdered her, and the guards and security cameras saw nothing. Must have been ghosts. There were suggestions at the time that the security company and guards (all ex-police) were involved in the murder and being protected by the local cops.

Then there was the teacher who had his dick cut off one night while walking across Tai-Da campus. Then there were the 2 teachers riding bicycles down in Taichung or Tainan (one of these cities) who were attacked by a gang.......one had his arm cut off. Or the Swedish engineer that had been in Taiwan for three hours. A Taiwanese company picked him up at the airport and they went to a pub down in Taichung/Tainan. Some unknown came running in the pub and caved in his skull with a piece of steel or something and ran out. The Swede was brain damaged. No one was ever caught and the Swede had never even been in Taiwan before.

This has been going on for a long time. Back in 1986 there was a Taiwanese guy who had just come back from grad school in the US. He was walking around in Taipei for several weeks attacking random westerners with bricks and rocks. He went up the the coffeeshop at the Sheraton on Zhongxiao and threw a brick thru the window at an American businessman who was injured pretty badly. In this instance, the Taiwanese was caught. But this was an exception.

Let's face it. Chinese police "techniques" have always consisted of picking up someone they want behind bars and then beating the shit out of him or her until he/she confesses. Detective work? Evidence? Just not very important in the whole scheme of things is it? They can't find their own asses with both hands. They care about drinking tea, playing mahjong, and saving face.

Anonymous said...

rather than doing any real journalism.

welcome to "chinese harmony"..

Anonymous said...

Handguns as are guns of any kind, remain illegal in Taiwan. The crime rates here are still nothing compared to the US, though don't leave your bike unlocked.

Andrew said...

There are more resident "foreigners" than you think.

Michael Turton said...

Chewy, great comments. I remember the Converse Asia one vividly. Not only do these cases not get solved, they do not even get reported -- unless, of course, the foreigner is the criminal (then it is front page news). I could add quite a few to this page. Wasn't there an ICRT reporter killed in the early 90s, also unsolved? Alan something-or-other?

I used to have a page on crime in Taiwan on my Taiwan website but everyone said it was too negative. I got constantly criticized for it.

Michael

Anonymous said...

I've met plenty of mainly white male foreigners in Taiwan that are very racist..

Sure, there are rotten apples in every bunch, but I think most westerners come here with an open mind and try to contribute something to better this place while they are here.

The few jerks that turn out to be racist garbage get filtered out quick enough.

Anonymous said...

I think anything pre-mid 1990s to me doesn't really seem relevant to Taiwan today.

At the same time that this kind of thing is happening to foreigners, Taiwanese citizens are also being kidnapped, blackmailed for ransom, murdered, and often for political reasons (ie Taiwanese American professor body found on Taida/NTU campus). The entire county council I remember was killed and the police investigation found nothing. This was early 90s if I recall correctly.

Michael do you know if violent crimes have gone down since the mid-90s? Most stuff on the news seems to be stuff among people that know each other rather than the random sort. This is sorta going off my memory of the news of the time period, but people around me seem to agree too.

Kerim Friedman said...

The only time I've seen this kind of violence in Taiwan was when I was driving through TaiChung. I saw a guy run out in traffic with a machete, chasing another man, whom he caught and threatened with the weapon. Eventually a schoolgirl got off a bus that was also stuck in traffic and yelled at the guy with the knife. Amazingly, this seems to have settled the matter.

Michael Turton said...

Yes, there is a bit of violence specifically foreigner-directed outside bars from time to time. I remember a case in Kaohsiung a couple of years ago when a S African was beaten with bats almost to death -- fractured skull, etc. Feli posted another one on her blog a couple of years ago as well.

It seems like when this stuff happens -- and it is serious -- nobody does anything.

Michael

Peter said...

I got a stern warning from my Taiwanese father-in-law to not make a big scene of things with bad drivers.

I had the habit of giving the middle finger to motorists (I'm a cyclist) when they cut me off etc.

I also had the habit of giving a hoot to other motorbikes (when I was on a motorbike) that stopped for no reason in front of me in the middle of the street.

As my father-in-law put it (rough translation), "In your country you get angry and then it's over. Chinese people don't forget. They will follow you and try to hurt you, just stay as safe as you can and just be on your way."

I've started to take his words to heart. Perhaps for a calmer, more cautious me.

Scott Sommers said...

I'm a little surprised that the existence of violent crime is such a huge issue among foreign residents. I personally have never been threatened by a Taiwanese person. It may also be significant that Vancouver is in the midst of a wave of violent crime, part related to drug-gangs and part just to your ordinary violent person. Today's Sun reports on 2 stabbing deaths.

Over the years, I have seen and heard a lot of stories about violence that was supposed to be targeting foreigners. It appears from the letter that there was a court appearance and that the assailant attended. As such, there must be a record of this somewhere. I would feel much more comfortable reading a report on the official court report than debating the merits of a letter to the Taipei Times.

Anonymous said...

He deserved it... did you see how he was dressed. He was asking for it.

Anonymous said...

"Don said...

During the 1970s, when I lived in Taipei, I sometimes went for late-night walks around the city and never once feared for my own safety. If there was violent crime there, I never heard about it."

Taipei was safe during the 1970s? WRONG! Taipei during martial law/white terror was hell on earth when all peace and freedom loving Taiwanese were abused and terrorized daily.

Anonymous said...

Well, if the cops in Taiwan couldn't catch someone who tried to assasinate the president in a crowded street in broad daylight, what chance would they have trying to catch someone on a dark secluded night?

Anonymous said...

Taichung has a general crime problem, which you can thank the local mayor for doing nothing about. The levels of crime in other places in Taiwan are much lower.

Taipei, Hsinchu, Taoyuan, Tainan, are all big cities that do not have the crime problems of Taichung. It's hard to imagine why there is no political responsibility being paid for this.

Anonymous said...

So based solely on the nationality of the parties involved, we have concluded that this is a "hate crime"? That the shooter was motivated by "Han chauvinism"?

W is damm lucky he didn't get a bullet in his head which would have been the likely outcome if this incident had taken place in any US city with a reputation similar to Taichung.

This isn't about hate crimes, han chauvinism, anti-foreign sentiment, etc. This is about not being stupid. If someone is taking shots at you with a bb gun, get away and call the police.

PS, having the parties involved directly negotate regarding compensation is standard procedure in Tawian and it seems to work for them.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I would feel much more comfortable reading a report on the official court report than debating the merits of a letter to the Taipei Times."

Isn't this the whole point, that the courts don't take the escalating racist-propelled violence against "foreigners" seriously? Like Scott, I seem to avoid trouble here. It finds me from time to time, but there are ways of getting out of it. But I see it all the time; I'd have to be living in a box not to. There are some interesting comments here. I think more has to be done to make the rights of the white "foreigner" out-group an issue. They are guaranteed by the constitution, but crapped on systematically. It happens, but people in the mainstream can't comprehend. They will tell you that hate crimes are committed by white people in America, end of story.

Anonymous said...

Scott,

The issue is not the amount of violence vs. any other country, but rather, what the authorities do when violence occurs... especially when it is the persons race/color/creed/religion/ethnic background etc... that makes them the target of violence.

Michael Turton said...

I would feel much more comfortable reading a report on the official court report than debating the merits of a letter to the Taipei Times.

We're not debating only a letter.

And as the information provided indicates, the "official court report" and its related documents casts the foreigner as an assailant.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"So based solely on the nationality of the parties involved, we have concluded that this is a "hate crime"? That the shooter was motivated by "Han chauvinism"?"

You seem to have missed the point.
The point is that because of the extant cultural/ethnic bias embedded in the systems of the ROC, and promulgated through education and mass media, a situation exists where "foreigners" are not engaged as a part of society, but rather as a separate, interloping people who "do not belong here". This essentialism leads to discrimination and othering that denies "foreigners" cultural space and impinges on the rights allocated to them by the ROC Constitution. In many cases this leads to negative stereotyping and targeting.

Anonymous said...

"This isn't about hate crimes, han chauvinism, anti-foreign sentiment, etc."

Of the other million people in the greater Taichung area.... why was a group of foreigners the target? That was never investigated. Why?

If anyone pays attention to the news "Foreigners" are often used as scapegoats for Taiwan's ills. Depending upon the headline "Foreigners" are:

Drug Dealers
Pedophiles
AIDS Carriers
Rapists/Sex-Fiends/Seducers
Alcoholics
Murderers (Bruce Jacobs)
Kidnappers (Custody Dispute)
Home Wreckers

In light of this portrayal it is easy to see why some Taiwanese feel threatened and might target "Foreigners"
It is not saying there aren't "foreigners" who are any of the above... but the number of Taiwanese who do the same is far greater.
Still, it is a shame "Foreigners" have not been more organized or active in combating unfair stereotyping and discrimination. It is no different than implying Mexicans are thieves and drug dealers, black men are rapists and thugs, Jews are scheming etc...

Many "Foreigners" are home/business owners, ROC citizens, taxed and actively participate in their communities.

I recall when the last big drug bust went down in Taipei and a bunch of stars were rounded up... they blamed it all on some mysterious "Foreigner".
In most places minorities would not stand for that. In most places minorities would not stand for job discrimination, ethnic profiling or any form of open discrimination.

This incident highlights the fact that the ROC as it stands, is not suited to deal with the reality that Taiwan is a culturally and ethnically diverse society and racism or ethnic/cultural discrimination can be denied as long as the myth that Taiwanese are culturally Han-Chinese remains the predominant official narrative.

Scott Sommers said...

I'm less sure that the amount of crime is not also an important part of the problem. I suspect that Patrick and I are expressing a much more common experience than the one in Michael's original post.

The reason the court description would be interesting is that in fact, I have no evidence this even happened, except a letter to the editor. I am sure that something happened, but I would be interested in knowing what the official version is and if it sounds credible.

Jenna said...

I'm gonna go ahead and post a dissenting view here.

Is there anti-foreigner crime in Taiwan? Certainly.

Is it a damn shame that the police are pretty ineffectual? Yep.

But the examples above are just about the only examples of extreme violence against foreigners - Western foreigners anyway - over a span of 20 years. If we were talking about violence against all foreigners we'd mention the guy who killed the Japanese tourist years ago and kept her body in his home, and we'd mention all the SE Asian brides who are abused.

But...you know what? I'm from Washington DC. There is more race-fueled violence in the DC area in 1 year than there is in 20, maybe even 30, 40 or 50 years in Taiwan.

As for high-profile cases that never get solved due to police incompetence, a la the Converse case, well, DC has Chandra Levy.

Gang violence? Taiwan has it, yes, but it's not nearly as bad. Guns? There are a few but incidents are pretty rare. Compare that to the urban parts of the USA.

And foreigners/minorities who are the victim of violence get just as ineffectual police assistance and lackadaisical investigations...if not more so.

So...I dunno. I don't think Taiwan is unsafe,and while nobody can deny that there is racism around the world, it's not that bad here. There's some crime, but compared to what goes on around the rest of the world, it's still a pretty safe place to live.

I'm a white foreign female - a seeming rarity in Taiwan - and can attest that it's perfectly safe to go out alone at night in Taipei. There's a risk as there would be anywhere, but it's not nearly as high as some other countries.

And the "lawlessness" that seems to pervade the south? Hmm. It's a little crazier down there, sure, but if you've ever been to the Mainland you should compare the two; Taiwan still comes out on top.

Compared to the rest of Asia - India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, mainland SE Asia - Taiwan is about as openminded, friendly and safe as it gets...which of course doesn't mean 100% safe, but it hardly deserves the "mean and dirty streets" reputation it seems to have, judging from these comments.

And as for racism - well yes. But Japanese society hates us far more, and China...talk about a superiority complex - inferiority of being white on top of inferiority of being female. Taiwan is nowhere near as bad.

Michael Turton said...

But the examples above are just about the only examples of extreme violence against foreigners - Western foreigners anyway - over a span of 20 years.

Ummm....no. Those are just the ones Chewycorns could remember offhand.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

The reason the court description would be interesting is that in fact, I have no evidence this even happened, except a letter to the editor.

I'd like to see the court documents; I'm sure they'd be very amusing. My own experience with official documents from hearings here is that they bear little, if any, resemblance to the reality they represent.

Michael Turton said...

Compared to the rest of Asia - India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, mainland SE Asia - Taiwan is about as openminded, friendly and safe as it gets...which of course doesn't mean 100% safe, but it hardly deserves the "mean and dirty streets" reputation it seems to have, judging from these comments.

Jenna, it's nice that you can locate countries that you think are worse in some aspect or other than Taiwan. But that is not a "dissenting" opinion but simply a totally irrelevant one. The issue here is real-taiwan vs potential-taiwan. What Taiwan is vs what it could be.

Michael

Anonymous said...

You guys are nuts. First of all, Taichung is a gang city known for gang violence (sorry Michael, it's a fact and it's not true of most other places in Taiwan). Given that, that foreigners encounter violence isn't surprising. In other words, I'll stop yawning when you show me that there is a statistically significant problem going on here (and that the magnitude of the problem is big too).

Racism in everyday life here goes almost always the other way around--there is racism shown by whites towards locals (mainly Americans), and by the locals themselves where in many situations they treat white foreigners much better than locals or foreigners of other colors and origins.

Let me remind you that the complete disdain that Americans show towards people with accents (sometimes the grammar is completely standard!). But in Taiwan, it's a fact that most foreigners have none to ridiculous inexpressive Mandarin or Taiwanese. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, language contributes to the problem? It obviously causes problems even among the Taiwanese themselves.

The question of whether any violence against foreigners occurs is easy to answer. It does happen, and we should condemn it. But don't blow it out of proportion and stop ignoring the fact that most Taiwanese in most circumstances, if anything, show reverse racism and give preferential treatment to foreigners.

Anonymous said...

"in a western country, had someone stopped to abuse a group of foreigners with a weapon, it would immediately have been classed as a hate crime."

This is complete bullshit if you are talking about the US. The treatment of Middle Easterners and Asian Americans (esp with darker skin) after 9/11 is really good evidence that that's not true at all. Look into it, it's not the happy happy land you think it is.

Michael Turton said...

This is complete bullshit if you are talking about the US. The treatment of Middle Easterners and Asian Americans (esp with darker skin) after 9/11 is really good evidence that that's not true at all. Look into it, it's not the happy happy land you think it is.

Is there some button that is pressed when people comment that causes their IQ to drop 50 points? Nowhere did I say the US was a happy happy land. But when people abuse foreigners in the US and they are caught, the topic of hate crime usually comes up. Never does that topic come up here when foreigners are abused by locals.

You guys are nuts. First of all, Taichung is a gang city known for gang violence (sorry Michael, it's a fact and it's not true of most other places in Taiwan).

Duh. Did I say it wasn't?

Given that, that foreigners encounter violence isn't surprising. In other words, I'll stop yawning when you show me that there is a statistically significant problem going on here (and that the magnitude of the problem is big too).

LOL. You can lead a horse to water...

Oh! And I love the comment that Americans are the most racist! Nicely sly bit of chain-yanking, there.

Michael


Michael

J said...

Michael, where can we get stats on crime in Taiwan, or more info on these racist attacks you claim are so common? Because when it's just you and commenters throwing out incidents, and talking about such-and-such a place's reputation, it's hard to tell if this really is just a few incidents over the past 20 years, or if there's some sort of pattern. Because right now, all I know of are the incidents mentioned here- which, like Jenna said, aren't much given that they occurred over 20 years, a time when there have been hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of foreigners living in Taiwan.
Re: anonymous- This sounds like the usual self-righteous European bs, from someone whose arrogance is only rivaled by their ignorance.

Michael Turton said...

J:

Nobody said anything was "common."

I don't think the police break out the incident reports by foreign/local. But I've heard of many similar incidents over the years.

There used to be a thread on Forumosa on a series of incidents at the Pig and Whistle in Hsinchu. Feli at Writer's Block wrote on another incident in which foreigners were deliberately targeted.

Feli's account of one such hate crime. Read the comments. Feli is Taiwanese-American.

Michael

Andrew said...

Discrimination is not always as extreme as the examples listed, but the latent attitudes and prejudices toward foreigners may lead some to identify "foreigners" as a group on which they can rest their misplaced blame or simply transform the "foreigner" into a fetishized object upon which they can project their own fears, insecurities, anxieties and beliefs.

It is absolutely correct that the structure of the ROC was engineered to create/invent a homogenous "Chinese" people with a national high culture (as defined by the state) that rejects alternative or local cultures and it surely rejects "foreigner" as local. This approach favors some people over others, leaves no room for hybridity and reduces the "foreigner/other" to a status less than equal. For many who are raising children where one parent was not born in Taiwan this may be more salient as the system positions one culture as "we/us/ours" and neglects to recognize the other parent as a contributor (or when it is recognized it is in a manner of the performative stereotype to enhance the strangeness or otherness similar to the manner aborigines have been reduced to dancing and singing in "strange" costumes). The education system reinforces this outlook by socializing citizens to limit their "we" group to a highly ethnocentrist political construct.
Recent studies have found a significant performance gap between children who have one "foreign" parent and those children with two local parents. The preliminary findings have pointed to children feeling stigmatized and ashamed of their foreign parent.

Prejudice does not always have to be completely negative, but merely different. The depictions of foreigners in the media are frequently exaggerations created to seize on the public's own prejudices. When a random stranger says hello to any white face, it is the product of the fetishized assumptions created from socialized forms of discrimination. The "greeter" has a certain, predisposed expectation of their object. Imagine a well intentioned person walking up to a random black man and calling out "Yo! Whas'up negro?" The interaction is loaded with assumptions.

Taiwan currently has very little means or political will to ameliorate these types of assumptions and create a cultural space that would make ethnicity irrelevant to one's authenticity. The current structure either employs a nationalist structure, under which everyone who is an ROC citizen is Chinese by nationality, yet Chineseness is demonstrated through Han culturalism... or There are four ethnic groups 1) Hoklo/Taiwanese 2) Hakka 3) Aborigines 4) Waishengren. The four essentialized ethnic groups neglect hybridity and fail to address the vast variation between members who ascribe themselves to any of these groups or any combination. It makes no room for foreign parents and creates artificial collectivities where there had traditionally been none.

The future of ethnic harmony in Taiwan might be better served by a constitution that backed away from promoting Han culturalism and took a culturally neutral stance to include all cultures as equal to avoid battles for authenticity. Another, more flawed solution, would be to include foreigners as one of the essentialized ethnic groups; an amalgam of different peoples from different locations, with different cultures and ethnic backgrounds...just like all the other essentialized groups in Taiwan.

There will always be someone hating on another and the unfortunate assault that happened to "W" will not be the last...but the first step to seeing an end to that type of incident is for "foreigners" to come to terms with the fact that they are a real part of this Taiwanese community and demand to be treated as a part of the diverse cultural landscape.

Anonymous said...

and I thought mainland china was bad... just shows that most asians are extremely xenophobic and hate foreigners. Whether its Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam,they are all the same in that regard. The only reason this stuff doesnt happen in mainland china is cause they dont have guns. I was beaten with a baseball bad by 5 stupid chinese because i am a foreigner, completely unprovoked and it didnt stop until I managed to get a clean hit at this guys balls and then kick him in the head with my steel caps. He is now brain-damaged, i got off on self defence. I feel not a shred of guilt that he is now going to be a beggar on the street for the rest of his life, i would have been happy to kill him and he's 4 buddies. In typical chinese fashion though the 4 of his friends ran like hell once i took the big one down. lucky for them.

Patrick Cowsill said...

“The future of ethnic harmony in Taiwan might be better served by a constitution that backed away from promoting Han culturalism and took a culturally neutral stance to include all cultures as equal to avoid battles for authenticity."

Ain't that the truth? One in five babies in Taiwan has a "foreign" parent. And Taiwan's birth rate is under one now, one of the lowest in the world. This generation, by its presence alone, is going to take down "Han culturism" no matter what kind of propaganda the in-group creates to nullify its identity.

vin said...

Great stuff, Andrew. I've been hoping that you would expand on your brief comment (beginning of thread)of several days ago.

Anonymous said...

Well, as long as we're sharing anecdotes from scary, scary, Taichung...

Remember the guy that was hitting on some gangster moll at the PigPen and her boyfriend found out and went to round up a bunch of his buddies? They headed over to Soundgarden a little while later to find the honkey, and beat the shit out of everyone who fit the description. If I remember correctly, he was no longer there when the volunteers showed up.

Anonymous said...

This story has produced more comments I believe than any other story in a very long time.

I lived in Taiwan for 5 years almost 5 years ago. I remember one tall Mormon kid I worked with getting a beating from 3 Taiwanese guys in Taichung when he went to the aid of his female Taiwanese friend. They ran into her car and didn't want to take responsibility for the damage.

Once I had a cab driver chase me around but I finally lost him. He showed up at my wife's brother's house looking for money because he felt I had scratched his car.

But for most of my years there trouble was nothing compared to here in the USA. Cops treat us like the enemy. Violence is common.

I felt safer in Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

So Michael, in response to a commenter that says you insult their intelligence and claim that they said Americans are the most racist? I guess your chain really did get yanked, because there was no such comment.

The part about 9/11 was in response to a BLANKET claim that YOU made that "in a western country, had someone stopped to abuse a group of foreigners with a weapon, it would immediately have been classes as a hate crime." The 9/11 claim is perfectly valid as a counter example. The US is not just any western country--it's one of the largest and most influential and probably the only western country you're truly familiar with, so if you are going to be saying something about western countries, and is relevant since a high percentage of foreigners in Taiwan are American.

There are a lot of words bandied about in this post and they are bandied about in a very imprecise way, and for the whites in this thread crying racism, I question whether you've ever experienced raced-based discrimination in your home countries.

Every time you guys claim racism, it just cheapens the term and you do a great disservice to all actual victims of racism...

Xenophobia definitely has a lot more explanatory power than racism--

The idea that you can take advantage of someone that doesn't know the culture, doesn't read and write the local language, doesn't hold citizenship;
the idea that foreigners or new immigrants are "taking away" resources from the entrenched local population;
that some police may have a similar logic when they decide whether they are going to work hard to solve a case or be lazy-asses--

notice how none of this has to do with racism?

Anyways, this whole thread is hilarious. Being stereotyped and classified as European from people that are claiming to be victims of racism? A few bad apples among foreigners? So maybe, just maybe, the great majority of Taiwanese actually give way too much respect to foreigners, and these thugs are exceptions?

Mentioning fetish was pretty hilarious too. Sure, foreigners are fetishized objects among some Taiwanese, but a lot of white guys come here because they have fetishized ideas about "Asian" women and "real" Chinese culture.

Michael Turton said...

So Michael, in response to a commenter that says you insult their intelligence and claim that they said Americans are the most racist? I guess your chain really did get yanked, because there was no such comment.

Ah, so when this fellow here said that it was mainly American whites who showed racism toward the locals....

there is racism shown by whites towards locals (mainly Americans),

...he didn't mean whites (mainly Americans) showed racism toward the locals, and I misread the comment.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

There are a lot of words bandied about in this post and they are bandied about in a very imprecise way, and for the whites in this thread crying racism, I question whether you've ever experienced raced-based discrimination in your home countries.

Actually, if you search, you'll quickly find that the term "racism" is used largely by those people denying it exists here. People "crying racism" have not been "crying racism." They've been discussing how cultural superiority complexes here manifest themselves.

I quite agree that the issue is xenophobia/ethnocentricism, at least from the Han perspective.

Can you read Chinese? If so, how often do you read the Chinese newspapers?

Michael

Michael Turton said...

This story has produced more comments I believe than any other story in a very long time.

Yes, although the first post on Chen's millions garnered 73 comments. I love it; I wish people would comment more.

Experiencing the xenophobia or ethnocentricism or racism or whatever here appears to be pretty much a yes/no thing. For a lot of people there is some experience that occurs that triggers the epiphany, others never have that experience and so wonder what everyone is talking about; those people who have experienced the impact of the problem in their own lives must be nuts, we're told. Or never experienced ethnocentrism/racism/xenphobia in their own countries, etc.

It's a fascinating dichotomy. My old crime page on my Taiwan teaching website used to get the same treatment. One group of people would write in an tell me that Taiwan was totally safe and that I was full of shit, the other would write in and leave anecdotes of their own encounters with crime and tell me how dead on it was.

Michael

Andrew said...

1) Let's take a step back and imagine hearing about this same incident, but instead of "foreigners" we heard this assault happened to a group of women or a group of homosexuals. What would your reactions be?

2) Pay attention to some of the loaded language in these comments and it is not surprising why foreigners need to become a part of the political dialogue on ethnicity and culture in Taiwan:

"Let me remind you that the complete disdain that Americans show towards people with accents (sometimes the grammar is completely standard!)."

"This is complete bullshit if you are talking about the US. The treatment of Middle Easterners and Asian Americans (esp with darker skin) after 9/11 is really good evidence that that's not true at all. Look into it, it's not the happy happy land you think it is."

"Every time [you guys] claim racism, it just cheapens the term"

"On the flip-side, I've met plenty of mainly white male foreigners in Taiwan that are very racist and condescending towards the general population of Taiwan"

"Let's face it. Chinese police "techniques" have always consisted of picking up someone they want behind bars and then beating the shit out of him or her until he/she confesses"

3) It may be that "Foreigners" in Taiwan are not used to being a minority group and/or fixate on the differences between themselves and other "Foreigners" to the degree they do not fully appreciate the shared spaces of Taiwanese "Foreigner" culture. Like many other ethnic communities, "Foreigners" are not bound together as a collectivity by any single shared cultural trait, but by the manner in which they interact with the state. This is very similar to "China Towns" in other countries. Diverse groups of immigrants who had never identified themselves as a single ethnic group, formed collectivities based on their contact with state power.

4)The Taipei Times has a very interesting project going on right now that has started looking into Taiwanese Foreigner culture as a living cultural aspect of Taiwan.

5) Before this post moves down the page to oblivion: This seems to be a very important topic that obviously demands more attention and thought form everyone. I hope we can keep some of the thoughts generated from this incident alive and continue this discussion with others. It is a topic worthy of much more consideration.

reeb said...

I question whether you've ever experienced raced-based discrimination in your home countries.

That is not the point. The thread is about how Taiwanese perceive foreigners, not discrimination in other countries. (btw, the short answer to your statement is you're wrong).

fwiw, It's safe here on the surface level, but that could change quickly. For example, things may get ugly fast if the US doesn't send in its military to protect Taiwan if (when) the PRC makes their move. I think in '79 there were quite a few anti-US protests when diplomatic recognition was lost.

There are also economy related issues that could unfold and cause panic and violence in the near future. Who is to say the locals won't blame foreigners for their troubles?

Lastly, if you read the Apple or watch local TV, you would be amazed by the brutality of some Taiwanese on a daily basis.

The racism here is kept in check as I mentioned in an earlier comment (anon), but because it is just below the surface, it won't take much for it to get dangerous - just like the nationalistic crazies in China.

Anonymous said...

Michael: My Chinese? I'm fluent in Apple Daily, Economic Daily News, TVBS, SET, and ptt. You?

BTW, Stop putting up straw men. You know better than that, don't you? I don't deny that violence occurs or that it occurs against foreigners. My problem is this ridiculous racist argument and I question (and leave as an open question) the magnitude of the problem. Xenophobia I am sure plays a role in the motives for some of the crimes. Racism? Not one of the anecdotes here looks racist on the face of it, though if you have links to news, I'd be of course open to changing my mind.

Reeb and others: No one is denying that violent incidents occur, and I would certainly attribute some of it to a very real and dangerous xenophobia. Random violence or violence towards strangers is actually NOT in the news much, because usually it's domestic violence or related to money; I agree that it occurs more than the news reports, sadly because it's often less sensational than say, foreign maid kills old guy in her care. But you should be using the word racism much more carefully. Look, racism is an ideology, and it is about superiority. If you guys think you know this place so well, find me mainstream Taiwanese writings in Mandarin that show this. I can read it, and not only that, I offer to do a translation if you can find it.

In addition, I am incredulous about your claim that violent racism against foreigners is just waiting for some incident to ignite it. Where is your evidence for that? You won't get nationalistic craze in Taiwan because there's a big disagreement if you haven't noticed, on what country you're supposed to be nationalistic about. Taiwan doesn't even have a single language that everyone rallies around with some people with strong aversions to Mandarin and some people with strong aversions to Taiwanese, and yeah, those with aversions to both.

chewycorns: yeah you are just a hypocritical ass. Just like police that see a foreigner and makes the quick calculation figuring the foreigner will never be able to make real noise if he just quiet dogs on the case, you use this idiotic Chinese stereotypes to try to explain all this in these broad general, unsubstantiated claims. Michael's very blog has a great post (well it was a Mr. Jeff Martin's talk) that explains some of the problems and history with police in Taiwan and there's very little "Chinese-ness" about it. Look at the difference between someone who's actually studied the problem and what your bullshitting is.

Michael Turton said...

Michael: My Chinese? I'm fluent in Apple Daily, Economic Daily News, TVBS, SET, and ptt. You?

I get the headlines off Yahoo News, and China Times, and read the Liberty Times. Alas, I have to sleep sometime.

BTW, Stop putting up straw men. You know better than that, don't you? I don't deny that violence occurs or that it occurs against foreigners. My problem is this ridiculous racist argument and I question (and leave as an open question) the magnitude of the problem. Xenophobia I am sure plays a role in the motives for some of the crimes. Racism? Not one of the anecdotes here looks racist on the face of it, though if you have links to news, I'd be of course open to changing my mind.

No problem, I don't need you to change your mind, you suit me fine just the way you are. But if we meet in person I can discuss the case that was the eye opener for me.

Michael

Andrew said...

There's a great article in the Taipei Times (Page 2) Academics Urge Ministry to Scrap Guidelines.

This exposes some of the "Han Chauvinism" I was criticized for introducing into the conversation.

Ethnic discrimination in Taiwan is a part of a structural problem within Chinese nationalism. A reassessment of Taiwan's ethnicities has some very far reaching implications which I will not discuss here and now, but under a Chinese nationalist model it can never be resolved.

Some people here may feel that "Foreigners" pushing to be included in this discussion is useless, absurd or irresponsible. But in a matter of 10 years the "4-ethnic groups" model went from being absurd to the predominant frame for dealing with ethnic/cultural differences in Taiwan.

The Foreigner said...

Is it xenophobia or is it racism?

Kinda splitting hairs, don't ya think?

Just for the record, I think the attitudes of one lone thug with a B.B. gun are of far less significance than the behavior of the police and the courts, if we're hearing the story accurately.

Anon can bring up isolated hate crimes against Middle-Easterners in America after 9/11 if he likes, but to my knowledge, foreigners haven't yet crashed an airliner into Taipei 101, so I'm not sure what his point is. I would ask Anon: can you point to any cases in America where the VICTIMS of violent hate crimes (rather than the perpetrators) were punished further with PROSECUTION?

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Recent studies have found a significant performance gap between children who have one "foreign" parent and those children with two local parents. The preliminary findings have pointed to children feeling stigmatized and ashamed of their foreign parent."

The local propaganda is that the former are "problematic children" that won't perform as well as [racially superior] Han kids. I've heard this again and again. But there are now some reports that suggest these kids fare just as well in their studies. I would hazard a guess that they do even better in some classes, for example, foreign languages.

I'd be interested to read the studies you're talking about. Could you insert a link?

Harry Callahan said...

I was actually there when this incident took place.It happened in the newly renevated park near the canal on Hwa Mei St.
There was no provokation at all.We were quietly drinking beers and chatting after having some food down the road.We thought we'd go in to the park for a beer like the hundreds of times we had before.
After a time we felt projectiles whizzing past our ears.
We were obscured by trees so we thought the person may not of seen we were there.
We alerted the guy and he just laughed and reloaded and continued to fire at us all in front of his girlfriend.
We became angry and yelled at him,as any man would.
My friend and i decieded to confront him.I don't know what we were going to say but we were angry about his blatant disregard for our welfare.
Upon reaching him he had started firing more BB bullets towards us from a machine gun looking weapon.
My friend picked up the case and defended his face with it before striking the guy in the head with it.
Meanwhile my friend recieved 3 to 4 shots in the face and several more on his body.The gun was taken from him and then the assailant tried to square up to my friend for a fight.
Realizing he would be beaten badly he fled to the bridge and opened his SUV door and producing a 9mm hand gun.
After some threats and a discussion
the guy went to prove that the gun was real by removing the clip and showing my friend.
The clip was taken from his grasp and thrown in the canal.
The cops were flagged down and there the comedy begins.
There is no doubt in my mind the guy heard we were foriegners and was showing off to his girlfriend.
He just got the fright of his life when the foriegners confronted him.
And like a true coward he fled to get a weapon.
The police work on this case was and still is a joke.
And those that want to see court papers....I can get them for you no problem.
There is an under current of racism creeping into Taiwan society that i have seen over the last 5 years.

Anonymous said...

Hey mike,
Your story is only hearsay. Please get both sides of a story prior to publishing.

Anonymous said...

^Whoever u r.Early you said this whole thread is funny.The thread started with a story about what happened in a park in Taichung,I was there that night and don't find any part of it to be funny.
It was bloody serious and could have wound up with serious consequences.
Please put your pom poms down and just read these stories for what they are.No one is making them up.
This kind of thing happens and it is happening more and more.
And no mate it isn't always the foriegners fault.Unprovoked attacks happen alot and will keep happening.

Deann said...

I am an "Irish" American (blond hair, blue eyes, 5'8"); my husband is Taiwanese (he's actually 6'2"). We were thinking of going to Taiwan to visit his family (mother's side), but now I am a little concerned.

They live in Hualien & Kaosheung. I keep contact with them through facebook and phone calls. His mother's side has always been kind (although I have not met them personally - His mother died when he was 7).

As for anonymous's comment:

and for the whites in this thread crying racism, I question whether you've ever experienced raced-based discrimination in your home countries...

Let me just say, when my husband decided to marry me (& this is in America - all my father-in-law's side of the family lives in the US, except grandma Wu) my father-in-law & his sister's all said I was no better than a nigger, that our children would be half-breeds, & told the other family members that I was a slut. When he tried to introduce me, his aunt's were verbally nasty to me, turning away with a "humph".

His father bragged to his step-mom that he was going to bribe my husband with $1,000,000.00 USD to leave me, and then tried to get him to visit Taiwan because he had secretly signed him up in the Taiwan army for 10 years. He also had people try and find out where we lived. I spent the first 2 years of marriage looking over my shoulder.

Even after 14 years of marriage, he won't take me to visit his aunt (the other 3 have died since then), and the last time my father-in-law visited was almost 6 years ago. (He never visited for more than 1 hour, and he's only visited 3 times our whole marriage - once to inspect our daughter). Whenever my husband's paternal grandmother visited, my father-in-law would make sure to leave if I were coming over.

How dare you make such a flippant comment about "us" not receiving racism in "our" country. I have probably endured more racism from my Taiwanese in-laws, than you have from "whites".

Also, where we live - Englewood, Florida, is a little half-redneck, half-retired area. We have never experienced any prejudice what-so-ever. Neither have my children.

My family loves my husband as though he were their own son. As a matter of fact, my husband and mother are more alike than any twins I know (scary -) :), and he has been excepted by every member of my extended family as well - which is very large (you know those Irish)...

Lastly, I am working overtime to become fluent in Mandarin (my husband isn't really helpful - he speaks too much English), & then I plan on learning as much Taiwanese as I can before we visit (if we do). I am also teaching our kids to speak it. I only watch Taiwanese Tv shows. Although, i admit, I still need the English subs.

Any suggestions on visiting? My husband hasn't been back for 17 years. I desperately want to go, but after reading this, I am a little afraid of what my father-in-law could do if he found out we were there.

Deann said...

sorry - i didn't read the date...i guess it's a little venting gone to waste.

Anonymous said...

The general consensus is that Taiwanese as well as asians in other asian countries don't like white foreign men. The white women are not a problem. A lot of white men come to an asian country and try to make the men in that country inferior when they go out with an asian woman, usually a woman who has felt abandoned by her own ethnicity and usually not that physically attractive. But of course you will get that abandonement in every culture. That asian women will try her best to get revenge by rubbing it in her own cultures' face when she thinks she has the great white prize. The white male foreigner who couldn't make it in his own country and the intra-culturally inferior asian woman is a great match. Both can get from nowhere to somewhere just by being together in public. I suggest white foreign men keep as low a profile as possible when they are in an Asian country because of this sterotype : being here for unwanted asian women. White foreign men are casting the first stone because of this sterotype and it is true. It will only get worse and worse in the future when more unemployed white foreign men come to asia to work and feel more superior than being in their own country. The rate of violent crime towards white foreign men in Asia is just going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

Well that's just some narrow minded,racist thinking by them then isn't it? It's high time that these ignorant creatures pull their heads from out of their own asses and take a reality pill.I know what your saying and i agree with it in part but i do know so many exceptions to the rule you stated but by and large that is true to a degree.If i was the Taiwanese males they might want to wake up to the fact that they are chauvanistic pricks and generally don't treat their woman well.That could be the reason for many of them wanting foreign partners.
When you point the finger there are 3 fingers pointing back at yourself...

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised, I have been shot by bb guns three times in Taipei or Taipei County, Taiwan. No one seems to think it is serious.

Anonymous said...

I´m Latin American and I was ¨accused¨ to be Philippino yesterday by a Taiwanese outside a restaurant.

As I´ve been to Taiwan for over 3 years already, I´m aware of the consequences if I´m involved on a fight, I hold back myself to not punch the Xenophobic Taiwanese, after he threw his tea on my girlfriend´s arm, and a metallic chair to my legs.

We were screaming for Police, we didn´t know the number and the owner of the place was acting as if we, the foreigners were causing the problem.

Sadly, we have to understand that Taiwan is for Taiwanese and we are becoming a annoying for some of them and we can not expect that the law would be similar to western.