"Someone Got Knocked Out By The Chocolate!"
(Apple Daily; China Daily; United Daily News; United Daily News; TVBS; TVBS; ETtoday)
The following is a minor incident at the flag-raising ceremony in Taipei on the morning of New Year's Day. The interesting thing is the passing-the-buck act right now.
Here is the description of the incident. This is not in dispute, because the cameras were there.
At 630am, President Chen Shui-bian and other government officials watched the raising of the flag of the Republic of China and sang the national anthem. After the ceremony, President Chen turned and headed back into the President's Office. On the way out, his supporters yelled out, "How are you, President? I love you, President!" A minute or so after the President had passed by, a woman named Hsu dressed in red and several dozens of meters away on the other side of the wired fence shouted: "Down with Ah Bian! (阿扁下台！)
Plainclothes military policemen rushed over immediately. A dozen military policemen picked up the woman and carried her away from the scene. While the woman was shouting "Down with Ah Bian!", the military policemen shouted loudly in unison, "Long live the Republic of China! (中華民國萬歲) to drown her voice out.
"Down with ..."
"Long live the Republic of China!"
"Down with Chen Shui-bian ..."
"Long live the Republic of China!"
The policemen even alternating in stuffing towels into the mouth of the woman to prevent her from shouting any further.
Everything was very efficient, except for an unanticipated development in the script -- the woman fainted. Meanwhile the crowd was chanting: "Someone has been knocked unconscious by the chocolate! Someone has been knocked unconscious by the chocolate!"
The 'chocolate' reference is due to the song that the military police cadets sang to President Chen Shui-bian during a visit in October (see Comment 200610#029; see YouTube video at 巧克力總統 ).
You are my chocolate!"
(note: based upon a commercial by entertainer Aaron Kwok for a chocolate beverage)
So the woman was left lying on the ground while the military policemen looked at each other and wondered what to do. Finally, one of them said, "Let's take her into the police station ahead." They did that and left the woman with the police. Then the deputy police station chief came out to the talk to the media while the military policemen left through the back door of the police station. Unfortunately, the reporters caught sight of them and chased them down. After being surrounded by the reporters, the military policemen finally said that they thought that the woman could rest and recover at the police station. The police summoned an ambulance to take the woman to a hospital for treatment. She did not suffer any serious injuries, just some visible bruises on the arms and legs.
By the way, the police did not file any charges against the woman. "That woman did not break any laws!"
Here is the collection of photographs. These photographs come from different media outlets, and you can see that being in the right position in that crowd made all the difference in the world. The art of photojournalism is making sure that you are in the right position all the time.
Here is the passing-the-buck act afterwards.
The media first went to the Ministry of Defense and asked whether the violent response was administratively appropriate. The military spokesperson said that the military police officers at the scene were under the command of the National Security Bureau. Therefore, it was inappropriate for the military police command headquarters to comment.
The media next went to the National Security Bureau and asked the same questions The spokesperson said that the scene was managed by the special operations center. While the responsibilities were clearly defined, they cannot say whether individual military police officers made errors in executing the order.
Finally, in the afternoon, the National Security Bureau and the military police reached an accord and the official response came from the Military Police 202 Command Center. The official statement was that at 630am, a female civilian was emotionally excited during the ceremony in the plaza south of the President's Office and created an obvious effect against the target of protection as well as public safety. The operational staff stopped the woman and handed her over to the police at the police station. "The method and process of persuasion has room for improvement."
In the morning, the Military Police 202 Command Center said: "Using a towel to cover the mouth and nose of the protestor and yelling 'Long Live the Republic of China!' to drown out the voice of the protestor were not the instructions given by the commanding officers prior the mission. These were the spontaneous actions of the military policemen themselves. The towels were personal items and not issued by the military police." When asked how all the military policemen could be yelling out "Long Live the Republic of China!" in unison without prior agreement or rehearsal, the answer was still that the action was spontaneous.
The Military Police 202 Commander Center deputy commander said that he was willing to apologize to the fainted woman and to review their operational procedures, but he will not punish any military policemen. When asked just what the woman was guilty of, there was no response.
If you think that this is the end, then you are wrong. Minister of Defense Lee Jye was not amused and he asked the military police commanding officer to come to the Ministry of Defense to explain in person. After the presentation, Lee did not understand why the military police under the command of the National Security Bureau Special Operations Center would turn into military policemen who acted violently against civilians. The military police officers could not give a clear account to Lee Jye. Therefore, Lee Jye has ordered an investigation into the incident and a review of the procedures. Of specific interest would be whether the operational plan of the National Security Bureau included procedures on handling anti-Bian protestors? What were the objectives of the mission? Under what circumstances were the towels and forced removal carried out?
In addition, certain KMT legislators are saying that unless the military police can give a credible account, they have every intention to raising hell on the budget for the military police.
Addendum: (TVBS) The Ministry of Defense confirms that 202 Command Center captain in charge on that morning has been issued a minor demerit for inadequate supervision. None of the policemen have been punished.
Addendum: (China Times) When the particular military policeman who took out the towel to put into the mouth of the woman was interviewed by military police investigators, he said that he did not want his commanding officer to hear "Down with Ah Bian". He originally wanted to put his hand over her mouth. But he was afraid that his friend might be dirty and the woman might think it was unhygienic. Therefore, he took out a towel and put it on her mouth. In retrospect, the military policeman was thought that the action was too excessive. As for the chant of "Long Live the Republic of China," a Special Operations Center official admitted that this was an order from the Special Operations Center. However, the whole point was to out-shout any protestors in order to make sure that physical contact becomes unnecessary.
Addendum: (TVBS) About this incident, the military has emphaized that the commander who issued the order to the military police officer to apply the towels has been transferred. But the military policemen have said that the commander was a scapegoat because his higher-ups issued those orders and ordered everybody to "act accordingly" and the failure to do so would be a "defeat." It is no wonder that the military policemen acted so vigorously.
Addendum: (China Times) Today, the military police finally admitted that the action on the day was carried under the order of 213 battalion commander (a lieutenant colonel named Chang). Furthermore, the towels carried by the military policemen were distributed by the commander during the pre-mission debriefing. On this matter, the military police apologized solemnly to the people. The responsible commander has been transferred to a non-command post. The individual policemen will not be punished since they were only following orders.
Addendum: (United Daily News) On the morning of the day before yesterday, the 202 command center deputy commander said that the action was performed by individual policemen. On the afternoon of the day before yesterday, it was acknowledged that the towels had been purchased beforehand (and hence the price tags and labels were still attached as noted by the media). On the evening of the day before yesterday, it was acknowledged that the action was ordrered by 213 battalion commander Chang but he was not on the list of punished individuals. Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Chang has been included on the "latest list of punished persons."
Addendum: (United Daily News) The 213 military police battaliion commander Chang had already been in the post for more than a year. According to standard procedure, Chang was due to be rotated out of the position anyway. Therefore, the announced transfer was not any punishment as such.
Addendum: (TVBS) "We were told that if anything goes out of control, it will be considered a defeat ... our fellow policemen at the frontline, including the field commanders, will chose to do more more than less. The order to bring the towels must have come from the upper level. The battalion commander is the scapegoat."
I'm only doing my job, ma'am Taipei Times. January 4, 2006.
Can people be punished for doing their job?
Apparently so -- at least here in Taiwan -- where concepts of professional credibility have been distorted by political wrangling.
Pan-blue legislators on Tuesday heckled the military police (MP) over an incident involving a female protester who disturbed the flag-raising ceremony on New Year's Day in front of the Presidential Office by shouting "Chen Shui-bian, step down!"
MPs attempted to gag her with towels as she was forcefully removed from the Presidential Plaza, where President Chen Shui-bian (
陳水扁 ) presided over the flag-raising ceremony.
Granted, the action of gagging someone with a towel needs to be re-evaluated, but aren't pan-blue legislators overreacting just as much by slamming the MPs who were simply doing their job -- which was to secure the perimeter around the president?
The pan-blue camp's fierce reaction prompted Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (
李傑 ) to order an inquiry into the matter on grounds of "inappropriate handling." A colonel also received a demerit over the incident.
The pan-blue camp argued that the woman hadn't commited a crime and that the MPs had violated her freedom of speech.
What the pan-blue legislators failed to take into consideration, however, was that with freedom comes the responsibility to respect others.
The female protester, identified as Hsu Hsi-erh (
許希爾 ), later shared her complaints at the anti-Chen campaign headquarters.
It is apparent that Hsu's actions on Monday weren't a mere protest but were aimed at embarrassing the president. Freedom of expression does not mean that an individual is free to do or say anything without having to face consequences.
As stipulated by the National Security Bureau, which is in charge of ensuring the personal security of the president, the primary responsibility of the MPs stationed in front of the Presidential Office was to protect the president.
When people make a scene during a flag-raising ceremony that could potentially pose a threat to the president, it is not unreasonable to expect that MPs will do more than just stand by and do nothing.
When Wang Wenyi (
王文怡 ), an employee of the Falun Gong publication the Epoch Times, heckled President Hu Jintao ( 胡錦濤 ) on the White House lawn last April, she was removed by security officers. No one objected because security officials were simply doing their job.
What MPs did on Monday was also what is expected of security officials. They were only doing their job.
The pan-blue camp's overreaction, together with the minister of national defense's yielding to their pressure, sends the wrong message to duty-bound military officials and could leave MPs scratching their heads over what their responsibilities are.
In view of the disciplinary action meted out following Monday's incident, MPs and national security personnel alike might show some reluctance next time a situation calls for action to protect the president. They might fear punishment because their supervisors don't have the guts to stand up to the hysterics of the pan-blue camp.
(Taipei Times) Agencies pass the buck over handling of New Year protest. BY Ko Shu-lin. January 16, 2007.
The National Security Bureau (NSB) and the Ministry of National Defense yesterday pointed the finger at each other over the action military police officers took against a woman who shouted "[President] Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), step down" during the New Year flag-raising ceremony.
A group of officers carried the woman away and used towels to gag her, causing her to pass out. She was then taken to a police station before later being taken to hospital.
When the woman shouted "A-Bian [the president's nickname] step down," the officers shouted "Viva Republic of China" in a bid to drown her out.
Lieutenant General Hsu Li-mong (許立孟) of the bureau's special duty command center said that he had been awaiting punishment from his supervisor, Director Hsueh Shih-min (薛石民), since Jan. 3, but Hsueh had not yet come to a decision.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) criticized the NSB for deliberately delaying the process in the hope that the public would forget about the incident.
Hsu, however, said that there was a procedure to follow before any punishment was meted out. In other words, the bureau needed to hold a review meeting before handing down a verdict.
After calling a meeting on Jan. 2 to examine the implementation of security during the New Year ceremony, Hsu said that they discovered that orders had been carried out excessively and that the commander assigned to maintain order in the south parking lot, where the incident took place, should be held partially responsible.
Although he was in charge of overall security planning, Hsu denied that he was the one who ordered the military police to take such drastic action, adding that his order was to "implement the law strictly and handle the situation resolutely."
They would not physically disperse any protesters unless they first failed to talk them out of creating disturbances, Hsu said.
While Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) had pledged to mete out punishments but later changed his mind, KMT Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩) said that she suspected his change of heart had something to do with his meeting with the president, who apparently endorsed the actions of the military police.
Secretary-General of the Armed Forces Police Command Wu Ying-ping (吳應平) said that the defense ministry and his command should not be held responsible because it was not their job to carry out special duties and if anything went wrong, it was the NSB's special duty commander center that should bear responsibility.