Makiyo case gives us no right to waiver in xenophobia fight

The China Post news staff

Last week featured almost hourly television news updates on a case involving a semi-celebrity and her friend who have now been charged by prosecutors for the brutal beating of a taxi driver on Feb. 2. The media can’t seem to help itself and — like a binge eater — is now in the process of purging with more than one newspaper or media commentator coming out to denounce the sensationalist coverage and call for restraint. The swarm of media piranhas is somewhat understandable; after all, this case has all the elements of a blockbuster. There is a beautiful female celebrity, a shady male companion with possible ties to the underworld and an innocent and unfortunate victim of violence. But the comments and attitudes displayed by some are less understandable. Over the weekend The China Post reported that a group of taxi drivers protested in front of the Japanese Interchange Association (JIA), which serves as a kind of de facto representative office in lieu of an embassy. Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported that the drivers held banners saying “Find the Truth” and “Violent Japanese Drinkers Not Welcome in Taiwan.” Acting as a spokesperson for the Taipei Taxi Drivers’ Association, executive committee member Cheng Chuan-yi claimed that although the incident was an isolated one, the JIA should comment on and apologize for a “Japanese national beating up a Taiwanese person in his own country.” Thankfully, only 20 drivers or so participated in this illogical protest. What grounds did these drivers think they had for picketing the JIA? The next time a Taiwanese person commits a crime in Japan, should the Taiwanese authorities apologize? When a government commits an illegal or offensive act, governments and civic groups have the right to protest. But individual actions by individual citizens are just that. Protesting the Japanese government’s handling of claims by former “comfort women” is valid; connecting the Japanese representative office to the alleged assault perpetuator Takateru Tomoyori is not.

It’s hard not to view the protest in front of the JIA as an expression of xenophobia. There were also hints of anti-Japanese sentiment on news sites, blogs or on social media sites where people made statements that strayed perilously close to racism; some comments crossed the line completely. It should be remembered that hardly a week goes by in Taiwan without a news story about some alcohol-fueled dispute that turns violent. Our nation has plenty of thugs and gangsters as well as plenty of ignorant or even evil people. This is true across the world, in every country on the planet. We must push back against those who make generalizations about a group of people as the end result of believing that “all (blank) people are (blank)” is a kind of dehumanizing separation between them and us; a concept that has led to some of the worst atrocities in human history. On Monday, The China Post reported that a Japanese national who has spent some 15 years in Taiwan began a fund-raising campaign for the taxi driver who was attacked. Thus far Naotsugu Yoshida has raised around NT$100,000 collected from close to 200 Japanese expats living in Taiwan. Yoshida said many of his fellow Japanese feel upset and sorry that one of their fellow countrymen is alleged to have committed such a brutal offense. These Japanese people living in Taiwan are not connected to the offender in any way, and are not by virtue of being Japanese collectively guilty. But their generous actions should help demonstrate that there are kind individuals in every society, just as the alleged attacker’s senseless violence demonstrates that there are uncivilized people in every society. Whenever racism or xenophobia rears its ugly head it must be confronted and denounced. The fact cannot be overstated: the actions of Takateru Tomoyori have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he is Japanese.