Japan should apologize
I refer to the incident where a Mackay Memorial Hospital doctor visited Japan despite having experienced probable (albeit indirect) exposure to SARS patients. ("Diseased doctor's tour causes diplomatic trouble" May 18, 2003, Page 1)
Regrettably, the incident has been sensationalized by both the Japanese government and media alike -- without waiting for due evidence. Interestingly, the bus driver who had direct contact with the doctor has been found not to be suffering from SARS after all.
Does this not entail a reciprocal apology from the Japanese side to the people of Taiwan, who have suffered great indignation and condescension from as-yet baseless charges?
Many countries around the world have been reeling from the effects of SARS, Japan included. The unreasonable outbursts from the Japanese side clearly show a Japan that still does not have the nerve to confront the reality.
SARS originated from China, this much is irrefutable. However, clearly frustrated with their own humiliating inability to condemn China directly, the Japanese have found a convenient scapegoat in Taiwan (via this particular doctor -- an isolated incident no less) on whom to rest the blame. This is despite the fact that Taiwan has always been a loyal and true friend to Japan.
Although I have no doubt that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was right in apologizing for the incident as per international etiquette, one cannot help but desire a reciprocal gesture of friendship, civility and respect from the Japanese side.
After all, this particular doctor never had direct contact with SARS patients, nor did he exhibit SARS-like symptoms at the time of his departure -- how is the government accountable for this incident?
Even if Japan should find suspected SARS cases in the Kansai region henceforth, is it not reasonable to conclude that any number of international and/or domestic tourists in the region was/is a potential SARS carrier, including -- but certainly not limited to -- the doctor?
There are currently no barriers to entry at Japanese ports, no requests to take the temperature of inbound travellers, nor are there mandatory quarantine periods in existence. Should Japan therefore not shoulder its share of responsibility in combating the spread of SARS?
Taiwan's government and its 23 million citizens have been forced to tackle the SARS situation with little humanitarian assistance from the red-tape-bound WHO experts. The government has in place, however, some of the most stringent quarantine procedures amongst SARS-affected countries.
In our time of great difficulty and sadness, Taiwan surely deserves more than the arrogance and despicable accusations from numerous Japanese government officials and journalists.
My sincerest advice to the Japanese government and media is for those in leadership positions to grow a backbone and stand up to China, the WHO and the UN directly, if they should wish to condemn others for the SARS epidemic. Taiwan is not a pawn and will not accept being treated like one.
For our part, Taiwanese should also learn from this incident -- that we not only need to stop kowtowing to the Japanese without regard for facts, we also need to re-align issues of Taiwan's national security with the ever-deafening demands to open our country to the suspicious and clearly dishonest PRC leadership across the Strait. We need to find a safe and dignified equilibrium for the sake of our future generations.