Zhang Zhijun Insulted: Who Is To Blame?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 2, 2014
Summary: The Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun was seated in
a car in Kaohsiung's West Bay when protesters flung paint at it. Zhang
is a guest. Yet this is how he was received. This behavior made a lie of
the boast, "Taiwan's most beautiful sights are its people." This
incident must be considered a serious matter.
Full Text Below:
The Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun was seated in a car in Kaohsiung's West Bay when protesters flung paint at it. Zhang is a guest. Yet this is how he was received. This behavior made a lie of the boast, "Taiwan's most beautiful sights are its people." This incident must be considered a serious matter.
Consider his public safety. Those charged with his public safety had two responsibilities. One. They had responsibility for choosing the venue. Two. They had responsibility for maintaining security. The MAC chose the Sunset Beach Resort. An incident followed. It cannot shirk responsibility. But on the other hand, the MAC is not a security agency. Security professionals within the National Police Agency, together with the Kaohsiung City Police Department, evaluated the choice of venue. They concluded that security would not a problem. These agencies rendered their professional judgment. Therefore they must bear some degree of responsibility.
The Kaohsiung City Government expressed doubts about the West Bay site before the incident. But saying no is easy. Offering concrete recommendations is hard. The Kaohsiung City Government recommended holding the Wang Zhang meeting at the Grand Hotel where Zhang Zhijun was staying. This may have been a convenient choice from a security perspective. But fortunately the MAC did not go along iwth it. When Wang Yuqi visited Taiwan, the two sides deliberately avoided each other's hotels. This posed the problem of who was visiting whom, and who outranked whom. If Wang Yu-chi had actually visited Zhang Zhijun's hotel, it would have been denounced as a "pilgrimage." It would most assuredly been blasted as "self-abasement."
Obviously however, the choice of venue was not the only reason Zhang Zhijun was insulted. Chen Chu and Zhang Zhijun met at Hanshin Arena. This was Kaohsiung's choice of venues. Protestors there also chased after Zhang Zhijun's car and beat on it. That also resulted in bloodshed. This shows that the choice of venue was not the only factor that affected Zhang's personal security, Was personal security actually ensured? Did the Kaohsiung Police ensure Zhang's personal security during the Wang Zhang meeting at West Bay? The paint flinging was a scene of chaos. Why didn't the police set up protest zones to keep the crows away from Zhang? Why didn't they place the barricades farther away? These questions all demand answers. The police are of course responsible. But it is not fair to place all the blame on the police. The Kaohsiung paint flinging incident must be traced back to its source. Only then can we identify the real problem.
The scales of justice may help us imagine what good security for Zhang would have looked like. On the one hand, guests of the nation have a right to be protected. On the other hand, the protesters have the right to free speech. Basically the guest's personal security must come first. Protestors' freedom of speech must come second. But the scales of justice are never still. They are subject to social influences and official attitudes. The paint flinging incident cannot be seen as nothing more than flung paint. It must be seen as part of Zhang Zhijun's visit to Taiwan.
Zhang Zhijun arrived at Taoyuan International Airport. Protestors stalked him relentlessly. But police successfully maintained security around him. Zhang Zhijun's safety was their top priority. This was the right approach. If anything were to happen to Zhang Zhijun, cross-Strait relations and the nation's image would take a severe hit. But putting a guest's safety first has a price. It may inspire protest groups and some of the media , to provoke confrontations and level accusations of "state violence." This puts considerable pressure on the police.
The scales of justice tipped the other way after Chen Chu and Zhang Zhijun's meeting at the Hanshin Arena. During the Chen Zhang meeting, the police cracked down on the protesters. This led to bloodshed. Chen Chu caved in to intense pressure from the protesters, who were all green camp supporters. Chen Chu left a comment on facebook. She absolved protestors of blame for their behavior. Instead, blamed the police. She said that if the police used excessive force, they would be punished severely.
Chen Chu is the Mayor of Kaohsiung. Her declaration naturally had a crucial impact on the Kaohsiung Police's handling of security. Fearing they would be punished, the police abruptly changed their security procedures. They wavered when it came time to segregate the protestors. Chen Chu's threat of punishment forced police to loosen their security procedures. This was a key contributor to the paint flinging incident.
In addition to reviewing security procedures, we must also clarify responsibilities. We must consider attitudes on both sides of the Strait. The paint flinging incident shows that all three parties, red, blue, and green, need to have greater empathy for each other.
One. When Zhang Zhijun was on stage, Wang Yu-chi admonished Zhang Zhijun to "listen to the public on Taiwan." This was a reasonable request. But shouldn't Taiwan listen to the public on the Mainland as well? Shouldn't people on Taiwan empathize with the public on the Mainland? The paint flinging incident is sure to fester in the minds of the Mainland public. They are sure to feel insulted. Many Mainland netizens mock the Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office or "guo tai ban." They refer to it contemptuously as the "guai tai ban," or "the office that kneels before Taiwan." The Mainland also has internal populist it must cope with. People on Taiwan expect the Mainland to feel empathy for Taiwan. But people on Taiwan should also feel empathy for the Mainland.
Two. The Mainland should refrain from giving excessive coverage tothe paint flinging incident. Most people on Taiwan are still rational. Historically speaking, the Zhang Zhijun paint flinging incident in Kaohsiung is regrettable. But the protest was significantly less intense than it was during Chen Yunlin's visit to Taiwan in 2008. This means that the public on Taiwan now has a more pacifistic view of cross-Strait exchanges. Breaking the ice results in safer navigation. Ice breaking such as Chen Yunlin's first visit to Taiwan has an enormous impact. As a result, it provoked a huge storm. But following his visit, the skies cleared. We must have confidence in this historical pattern. We must be patient. We believe that following Zhang Zhijun's ice-breaking voyage, the winds will be gentler and the sun will be warmer.
Three. The DPP must pay attention. Zhang Zhijun has visited Taiwan. Six years ago, when Chen Yunlin visited Taiwan, the DPP stood on the front lines. This represents progress of a sort. But the paint flinging incident reveals the DPP's shortcomings. Chen Chu's dilemma was obvious. She could not decide whether to take a hard line. The DPP and its supporters found themselves at odds with each other. The DPP wants to prove that it can manage cross-Strait relations. This however, remains its biggest obstacle.