by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: 偷你哥(Tony Ge)/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 2.0
A FATAL STABBING incident in New Taipei at a school has led to the candidates of all of the major parties to pledge to enact measures to ensure the safety of students in Taiwan.
The incident took place at a junior high. Reportedly, a male student stabbed another male student after that student argued with a female student of his, who was friends with the first student. The victim was stabbed in the neck and chest repeatedly afterward. The student was rushed to Far Eastern Memorial Hospital and was initially resuscitated, but later died after surgery.
The student who carried out the stabbing is currently in custody. This student in question was reportedly recently released from a juvenile detention center and previously had a history of violence against others.
After the incident, President Tsai Ing-wen announced that a meeting would be held next week between Taiwan’s six municipalities in order to discuss ways to improve safety in schools. To this extent, all major political parties in Taiwan have vowed that they would take measures to try and improve safety in Taiwan.
Lai Ching-te of the DPP vowed to implement a new counseling system through changes to the Student Guidance and Counseling Act if elected. By contrast, Hou You-yi of the KMT promised to improve the social safety net and means to identify, punish, or counsel violent students, stating that this could involve schools working with local police departments, leaning into his background as a police official. Claire Wang of the NPP, who first rose to public prominence after her daughter “Little Lightbulb” was killed in a random act of violence, emphasized the need to counsel the aggrieved.
This is not the time that the death of a young child became a charged political issue in the present election cycle. As mayor of New Taipei, Hou You-yi previously came under fire for the death of a child referred to as “En En” from COVID-19 in public discourse. En En died after his father called the Zhonghe District Public Health Center, which did not answer, then called the fire department, which told him to contact 119. After calling 119 four times, there was still no answer.
After the death of the child, En En’s father, a man surnamed Lin, called for clarity. Lin called for records of his calls to be released. However, what provoked outrage from the public was the unwillingness of New Taipei authorities to release such records, with Lin told that the recording would not be released, and he would only be provided written records and a transcript, then later told he could only listen to the recording in the offices of the city government.
Subsequently, a leak from a firefighter that the fire department was instructed to act busy during the visit, so as to save face for the department as to the slow response. According to Lin, once he listened to the recording, he found that there were no personnel on standby for ambulance dispatch services at the New Taipei Department of Health for 52 minutes. Moreover, the recording contains the sound of personnel laughing while reviewing En En’s medical information.
Otherwise, the pan-Blue camp has sometimes targeted the DPP over violent crimes that have occurred during the Tsai administration, including the death of “Little Lightbulb”. This has particularly been the case for violent crimes committed by young people. The suggestion by the pan-Blue camp is that the Tsai administration’s unwillingness to use capital punishment has led to an increase in violent crime in society, or that the Tsai administration has been unable to prevent gangsters from coming to influence young people in Taiwanese society.
Yet perhaps this emphasis on young people committing violent crimes overshadows the fact that violent acts take place in schools. After all, there are many cases of teachers committing acts of violence against students as punishment, the most famous of which may be when a 7-year-old child died after being body-slammed 27 times by an unlicensed judo teacher in 2021. This occurred because the teacher believed the child, surnamed Huang, was faking illness to get out of class. One expects few solutions for violent actions by students if such promises are only made as a form of electioneering, with a lack of genuine interest in systematic, comprehensive reforms that prevent violence.