Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Assault in Taichung

I've mentioned Michael Turton's blog, "The View From Taiwan," which is mostly about what's going on there today, with an emphasis on political and social issues (and some excellent photographs, by the way).

Michael recently wrote a piece entitled "Foreigner Victimized By Gun Toting Tough in Taichung" in which he describes an incident involving a local thug who assaulted a foreigner, first with a BB gun and later with a handgun! The foreigner was a teacher who was promptly fired by his school administrators because they feared gang retaliation against the school. Incredible.

Though this all took place in Taichung, I was surprised that it could occur anywhere in Taiwan.

I remember walking the streets of Taipei late at night in the seventies, never giving a thought to my own safety. It just never occurred to me that someone might come after me, with or without a weapon. Of course the Gemo kept the place under martial law in those days, which dealt very harshly with crimes like robbery and assault. I'm not justifying martial law here, just making an observation about how things were.

That's not to say there was no crime there -- theft and burglary, for example -- but some punk attacking a foreigner in the streets, with a gun? I don't think so.

The U.S. State Department website provides a lot of information about visiting Taiwan, including crime information:

Although the overall violent crime rate in Taiwan is relatively low, travelers should avoid high crime areas, such as areas where massage parlors, illegal "barbershops," and illegal "nightclubs" run by criminals prevail. In contrast to their counterparts, legal barbershops prominently display the usual grooming services. Illegal nightclubs have no advertisement and are publicized by word of mouth only. Public transportation, including the buses and the subway, is generally safe in Taiwan, but women should exercise caution when traveling alone in taxis late at night. In several parts of Taiwan, incidents of purse snatching by thieves on motorcycles have been reported.
In other words, like anywhere else in the world, if visitors keep their eyes open and don't do anything stupid, they should be okay.


Speaking of visitors, yesterday was quite a milestone here. On July 18, 2007, I wrote the first piece for this blog, titled "The Watch," which was a sort of grumpy summary of a detail that many of us had to pull every now and then at TDC. Since then, more than eleven thousand visitors have dropped by to read the next 271 posts and look at the photographs, most of which came from others who were kind enough to share them.

I originally thought that I'd publish a few columns to share some personal memories about USTDC, since there was almost no information on the web about the place. I fully expected to run out of ideas after a few weeks -- if I even got that far -- but at least there would be a public record that something called the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command had indeed existed.

What I didn't know was that a lot of other people would also want to get involved in the project, sharing their own memories and, of course, those great pictures. Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive of this effort.

I'll continue posting until I finally run out of material, but if the past thirteen months or so are any indication, that just may be a good long time.

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