Fri, May 25, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Live Wire

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

Mouse on the Keys.

Photo courtesy of The Wall

According to the latest bit of slang, girls who get drunk and pass out in night clubs are now known as “corpses” (撿屍體), and the guys who take advantage of them are called “bone collectors” (撿骨師). Quite naturally, Zhongxiao East Road has been dubbed “Necrophilia Boulevard” (撿屍大道). Having read about all of this colorful language in the Liberty Times (自由時報), the Shida Neighborhood Association (師大三里里民自救會) has declared their grave fears that Shida Park will now turn into “Necrophilia Park” (撿屍公園). Moreover, they have placed special blame on foreigners, going so far as to post online photos of white guys sitting next to beer bottles and (gasp!) Taiwanese girls. Who cares. It’s the Internet.

Oh, right. The United Daily News (聯合報) cares. Apparently they think journalism is as easy as reprinting any scandalous tripe one finds online. In a May 11 article by reporters Guo An-jia (郭安家) and Peter Yuan (袁志豪), the paper reprinted one of the neighborhood association’s photos alongside an article, which begins, “The Shida Neighborhood Association has posted a number of photos online, claiming that Shida Park has become a 24-hour district, where foreign men are everywhere picking up Taiwanese girls. The park is full of beer bottles and cigarette butts. Recently, girls have been laying on the ground late at night, and local residents worry that it will turn into a ‘necrophilia park.’”

Since the report, Taipei police have made themselves a presence at Shida every night and posted signs around the park detailing violations of city codes and accompanying fines, from public disorderliness and excessive noisemaking to urinating in public. (Fines are NT$1,200 to NT$6,000 in each case.) The weekend following the article’s publication, police conducted random ID checks on several people in the park. Businesses were also affected. Jr Cafe, a bar-restaurant fixture on the street for more than 20 years, has been 24-hours for years but began closing at 11pm, as did its neighboring cafe Vino Vino Cafe, previously open till 3am.

The Shida Neighborhood Association on its blog has repeatedly singled out foreigners, foreign laborers and the homeless as culprits in a disintegrating social order. It has also spearheaded the attack to close down the area’s clothing shops and restaurants. The association is empowered by the recent willingness of the Taipei City mayor’s office to follow up citizen complaints against businesses with fines and closure notices. This especially pertains to businesses open after 10pm and located on roads that are less than 6m wide. Late last year, city regulators declared open season on Shida, levying numerous fines on business owners for health, fire code and noise violations. By Lunar New Year, closure notices were served, and many businesses were given 10 days to shut down. The most drastically affected area has been Pucheng Street, Lane 13, also known as “International Food Street” (異國美食街). Once lined with restaurants, now all are shuttered save one, Out of India, which is fighting the city in court.

According to one Taipei City report, of 638 businesses in Shida area, 356 are in violation of zoning regulations. Clearly, there is a disconnect when it comes to enforcement, and there has been for a long time. The way to deal with it is not to send out enforcers en masse to destroy one of the city’s emergent cultural districts, mainly because certain residents are reactionaries. Shida has a hip, bohemian feel and, with the entire nation’s only youth-oriented night market and the richest underground music scene, it functions like Greenwich Village once did in New York City. For tourism, culture and the city’s image, destroying it would be a huge mistake. City Hall has so far been totally insensitive to all this.

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