In recent news, a 25-year-old Spanish national living in Taichung was accused of sexual assault by an unnamed 17-year-old Taiwanese girl.
As with many democratic nations, Taiwan has laws that are designed to protect those within its borders to ensure fair and just treatment. Taiwan has a variety of customs (backed up by various laws and traditions) that protect The People. It’s one of the foundations of their modern society and government, stemming most notably from “三民主義,” or “The Three Principles of The People.”
Modern Taiwanese are often paranoid about their identities being revealed after being the subject of public accusation. This means that, in media, peoples’ full names are not released and pictures of them will obscure faces through a mosaic.
That is, unless you’re a foreigner.
As you can see in the above-mentioned story, we all know exactly who Sergio Hidalgo Peña is. But for all that crack journalism, Apple Daily can’t even get his name in the proper order: they think is last name is Sergio. They can’t even spell Hidalgo right!
So, right from the start, we’re dealing with a level of journalism that can’t even be bothered to do a Google search of “HILDLGO PENA SERGIO” before they decide to plaster it all over the internet. The primary picture is of Peña, who has not been found guilty and is out on bail, doing a typical “perp walk,” with Apple Daily doing their best to imply guilt as immediately as possible.
And it’s not just the images that stack the deck! The language used in the title is extremely inflammatory regarding Westerners in Taiwan and does nothing but encourage Taiwanese xenophobia.
It literally calls him “西班牙洋腸,” or an “exotic Spanish sausage,” which is alluding to exactly what you think. There’s an old stereotype that “Westerners just come to Taiwan to have sex with Taiwanese girls” and this prejudice dies hard, even in…and I use this term very loosely…professional news media. Of course, the comments section of the article has been flooded with angry Taiwanese citizens complaining about how Taiwanese girls love foreign sausages more than Taiwanese ones.
Obviously Apple Daily nor the commenters make any mention of the 1000+ sexual assaults each year that are Taiwanese-on-Taiwanese (though Taiwan’s Ministry of Interior suspects that only 10% of the actual number of sexual assaults in Taiwan are reported), because that doesn’t serve their hate and fear mongering. The focus of this story is to burn a foreigner at the stake for a variety of reasons, ranging from “selling newspapers” to “encouraging nationalism.”
It’s the kind of fascist behavior you’d expect of a Hearst-run newspaper 100 years ago, making Americans believe that black men were all running around raping white women. Yet, for the penchant for provocative and racy stories in Taiwanese media, this story of a Taiwanese national accused of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering his mother in Los Angeles last February was conspicuously absent from all Taiwanese media, even as he now awaits possible execution.
Coupled with the total disclosure of Peña’s name and face, they’re pretty much calling for a civil lynching, while ignoring any aspects of this or other stories that might make Taiwanese people “lose face.” But they couldn’t care less about Peña’s face: it’s plastered across the island for all to see! There’s no way this guy can get a fair trial, now. If Peña was named Chen, Huang, or Lin, that’s all we would know about him, assuming the story would even be picked up by any media outlet, which is unlikely given the thousands of Taiwanese-committed sexual assaults each year and a virtual media moratorium on the subject. For many Taiwanese, there is one set of standards of behavior for “those like us” and a different set for “everyone else.” That is systemic racism. This story is just the most recent example.
If Taiwan does not offer equal protection to all, whether from a news outfit or from a government, Taiwan has no business pretending it is a free democratic nation that cares about civil rights. You can not claim to be a nation of modern law and also be racially-selective about who is protected under 三民主義. There is no way to say your nation is one that embraces human rights – you can not profess that you are not like China – when you adhere to the idea that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
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