The Big Brawl in Taipei
This is an international news story that is totally unreported in China. It is hard to say why that should be the case. While the event was taking place, CNN and NHK were broadcasting live to the whole world (except in China where these signals are not usually received) to watch. Perhaps the Chinese media wanted to shine only a positive light on Chinese Nationalist Party chairman Lien Chan's historical trip to China. Otherwise, this would have been the ideal example of why China should not want Taiwan-style democracy. This incident is neither typical or exceptional. It is not typical because a massive brawl like this does not happen every day in Taiwan, and this one will probably earn another 30-second film clip at the closing of the early evening national broadcast television news programs in the United States. It is not exceptional, since it is illustrative of the deeply and passionately divided nature of society in Taiwan at this time. Nobody should be surprised, and everybody thought something like that might just happen.
Now for the gory details. This post is assembled from so many news stories that I will not document which details comes from where. You can run a search on the term (機場) for "airport" at Taiwan Yahoo! News and you will get to the dozens and dozens of stories. When I last checked, there were more than 100 stories already. The most detailed sources are these two Chinese-language stories at China Times and Ming Pao.
The pre-prologues began very early in the morning. A small number of TSU supporters were outside Lien Chan's residence to attempt to block the motorcade before it ever reached the highway. However, they gave up that attempt when they saw the security arrangements.
The prologue of this story was a dangerous highway chase when Lien Chan's motorcade from his residence to the airport was being pursued by three taxicabs operated by Taiwan independence supporters. Lien Chen's bus departed at 920am, as his security staff followed in two vans led by a police vehicle. The highway patrol also sent five police vehicles. Suddenly, three taxicabs raced along both sides of the motorcade, even bumping against the security car. The pan-green supporters inside the war waves banners such as "The rotten Lien Chan is betraying Taiwan." The taxicabs were within inches of Lien's bus. The police vehicles raced in to force the two taxicabs on the right off to the shoulder of the highway, and also sandwiched the vehicle on the left in front and back. The taxicab drivers will probably and should be charged with reckless endangerment. Astonishingly, they were not immediately arrested!
The big confrontation at the airport was foretold. The Taiwan Solidarity Union and other organizations had planned a 10,000 person protest demonstration at the airport. TSU chairman Shu Chin-chiang warned beforehand for his people to be wary of pro-Unificiation gangsters and Chinese Communist "fifth columnists" who will attack the demonstrators.
The police presence at the airport was announced as 1,100 personnel at the press conference on the day before, but a more precise figure given afterwards was 3,679 (which included 648 military draftees). At the press conference on the day before, the police said that there will be four prosecuters on that scene, and that flags, placards, eggs, rocks, poles, bats and anything else that can be used as weapons will not be allowed.
At the entrance to the Number 2 Terminal, all vehicles must identify themselves as either green or blue. The green shall enter from the north while the blue from the south.
At around 6am, independence proponents were gathering at the Chongshan Soccer stadium to wait for the buses to take them to the airport. When the buses arrived, a group of about twenty unidentified young men dashed out to spray-paint the bus windows and puncture the tires with sharp objects. Then they quickly left the scene when the police arrived, but four of the perpetrators were arrested. These young men claimed that they were paid by a middle-aged man to perpetrate these deeds. Three of the buses could not leave as a result.
At the airport terminal, the police had ordered the two camps not to enter the terminal building itself. Rather, they were to stand in two open areas outside, being separated by a phalanx of police officers. People were to be carefully searched before they were allowed to enter those areas, although all the police did was to ask the driver if they were carrying any banned item and then they gave a cursory lookover from outside the car. Only those holding passports and airplane tickets/boarding passes were allowed to enter into the terminal building itself. But prior to the police checkpoints being set up, a dozen people from each camp had entered the terminal very early in the morning and so now they were in the third-floor departure hall, chanting and singing. The police did not remove them.
At around 845am, there was a shouting contest outside, as people chanted "Nationalists are selling out Taiwan" and "Japanese pigs" and much more vulgar language. At first, the military draftees used shields to separate the two camps and then the regular police took their place. The military draftees got to go on the sideline to watch the show as it developed.
However, at 908 am, a group of about 1,000 independence proponents led by DPP Legislator Wang Shih-chien and TSU Legislator Lo Chih-ming breached this scheme by going into the parking lot in the basement of the terminal and taking the elevator to get to the main lobby, which had been designated as a restricted area by the police. There is a statute of law in Taiwan that demonstrations at airports are prohibited. Worse yet, this group had not been searched and they carried flags, placards, eggs, rocks and even knifes and swords.
When the people outside saw the presence of the large group inside the terminal, everybody surged forward. The row of police officers was unable to hold the people back. The two groups then jostled each other, the eggs, rocks and water bottles came flying and the fists, umbrellas and poles started swinging. This was the first battle.
When the small pan-blue contingent in the main lobby saw this surge of pan-green people, they chanted "Execute Li Teng-hui!" and "Long live the Republic of China!" The pan-green replied with "Lien Chan is betraying us" and "The Nationalists stink!" The emotions ran high and a small group of pan-blue supporters wearing t-shirts with the national colors charged over the luggage belt on the counter of EVA airline. All of a sudden, poles and bats began to swing and this was the next battle. Then the eggs and rocks began to fly.
At 914am, the independence proponents were assembled in the lobby area listening to speeches and chanting slogans like: "Lien Chan is selling out Taiwan, the Nationalists are garbage", "Shut down the airport!" "Chinese people have no shame" and "Victory to Taiwan".
At 926am, a pan-green supporter took out his long sword-knife and started wielding it, and the police could not dissuade him from his exercise. At 935am, the flying objects came down from the fourth floor towards the pan-green supporters in the third-floor lobby, even hitting many media reporters and police officers. A Taipei County legislator was hit in the head with a rock wrapped in red paper, and bled profusely. A small number of citizens actually brought safety helmets with them, and so they were quite indifferent.
At 10am, seeing the situation was getting out of control, the police raised the warning sign to formally announce that this activity was against the law. It is standard procedure for the police in Taiwan to issue three posted warnings before taking action. Wang Shih-chien stood on the counter of the tourist information booth and yelled angrily: "Why is the sign raised?" The crowds surged forward immediately and smashed the sign. People were pushing and jostling in wave after wave. A straggling pan-green supporter was surrounded by a group of young men wearing the national colors and bloodied. One woman was knocked out by a police shield, and had to be taken away in an ambulance.
Most of the pan-blue camp were still outside the terminal building. They began to shout: "The police lied to us! They said that protestors must stay outside, so how did the other side get in?" "What is going on? The protestors are inside and the well-wishers are kept outside? The police are protecting the DPP!" Someone even shouted: "We have been stupid to listen to the directions of the police. Let us all charge inside!" Many pan-blue supporters then attempted to enter via the basement parking lot too.
At 1025am, Taiwan independence leader Shi Ming led a group of about twenty people to set off firecrackers in front of the entrance of the departure hall while the police watched. They even threw a few firecrackers in the direction of the reporters and photographers. The group then left unmolested by the police.
At this time, the pan-green camp heard that Lien Chan had already entered the building via a different path. The crowd then started cursing loudly, but soon the pan-green contingent began to disperse since their target was gone. But this would not be the end of the action.
In the last wave wave of attacks, around thirty to forty young men dressed in black proceeded to attack individual pan-green stragglers as they were leaving. According to the TSU, these young men were Bamboo Union gangsters. One group of about a dozen pan-green supporters were heading towards the parking lot when a group of men in black assaulted them, not sparing the women or elderly among them. The worst case was a middle-aged man, who was assaulted by a group of young men with nunchakus. The man had a broken nose and broken teeth, and he was crying and bleeding on the floor before bystanders called an ambulance for him. The police was not around. The media were too busy taking photographs or videos to assist him.
At the hospital emergency room, there were many injured citizens, with nine of them said to be in serious condition. A few suffered cuts, and the most serious case was a brain concussion. Even the media reporters became victims, as they were pelted with eggs and rocks, punched and hit by the crowd. One television reporter even got his wallet picked.
Here is the itemized list of weapons that were observed in combat, most of which were supposed to be banned by the police:
Much of the fighting came under the watchful eye of police on duty, who remained in a line formation waiting for orders from their superiors. Only after the fighting stopped did police move closer to the scene, but failing to arrest any of the assailants who walked away in full view. I repeat: not a single person was arrested after the mayhem. Chen Jei-tien, chief of the Aviation Police Bureau, has been dismissed from his job. The police took a lot of video tapes at the scene and they may be able to identify and track down the criminals.
Here is Chen Jei-tien's job performance report:
On May 3, Lien Chan will be returning to Taiwan. On May 5, James Soong will be leaving for China. The police had better shape up.
Apple Daily has this quick poll of 339 adults in Taiwan about: Who bears the most responsibility for the bloody conflict at CKS airport?
Someone with a lot of time on hand has used the Three Kingdoms reference to create a set of photos based upon the (Japanese) video game Dynasty Warriors. Game players are likely to appreciate the humor much more so. As for me, I am keeling over with laughter.