Fri, Apr 20, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Two legislators' campus security `drill' goes awry

IMPROMPTU The two lawmakers staged an exercise they said was designed to test police response to an incident at a local university, but the police had not been informed

By Flora Wang, Max Hirsch and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Kuo-ching apologizes to the faculty and students at National Taiwan University fro staging a mock attack Wednesday morning to test the police response.


Two days after the worst shooting rampage in US history on the campus of Virginia Tech University, heavily armed police swarmed the school's sister institution in Taiwan, National Taiwan University (NTU), responding to what they believed was a hostage incident carried out by two armed assailants.

What police and students did not know, however, was that the incident was a stunt staged by two elected officials who had not notified law enforcement agencies of their intent.

Around 2:45pm on Wednesday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lee Chen-nan (李鎮楠) and Lin Kuo-ching (林國慶) led several officials from the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the media to the university, where they announced they would conduct a "drill."

The pair demanded that officials begin by "simulating" a hostage situation at the university's College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture.

They then alerted campus police that two gun-toting madmen had just taken 30 students hostage in a classroom.

After receiving the initial report, the university police sent two officers to check on the situation, while calling for backup from the Taipei City Police Department.

Meanwhile, the two legislators, MOE officials and members of the media roamed through the building's hallways.

At a classroom where students were studying, Lee walked in and held up a fork, saying it was a submachine gun, and pointed it at the students while asking them if they knew how to deal with such a situation.

Several minutes later, the legislative duo were confronted by dozens of police officers wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying 9mm pistols and M-16 assault rifles, who had been sent from nearby Daan Precinct.

The pair then explained to the visibly agitated officers that it was only a drill. Police then cleared the area and confirmed that there was no cause for genuine concern.

Speaking to the Taipei Times yesterday, university secretariat Fu Li-chen (傅立成) said schools nationwide had received a notice from the education ministry on Wednesday "at almost 1pm," stating that one university would be selected at random that afternoon for a "security exercise."

"We didn't know at that point what the exercise would be, or even at which university it would be staged," Fu said.

An hour later, an education ministry official phoned NTU president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) to inform him that an exercise would be held on his campus, to which Lee Si-chen agreed, Fu said.

"The Ministry of Education is, of course, our commanding administrative agency," Fu said, adding: "Our first reaction was that our sister school, Virgina Tech, had just experienced this horrible tragedy, and we're concerned about our own campus safety, so we gave our consent."

Ministry of Education spokesman Lee Po-yen (李泊言) said yesterday that the two lawmakers had orchestrated the entire scenario, and that not even his ministry had known which school the exercise would be held at, or even what the nature of the exercise would be.

The lawmakers had merely informed the ministry that they sought to stage an exercise to test the response of police to an on-campus crisis, which led to the ministry's general notice earlier on Wednesday, Lee Po-yen said.

"They [the two lawmakers] decided where to go only after they had boarded a bus from the legislature with education officials to go stage the exercise," Lee Po-yen said, adding: "They had decided on the story, with two gunmen holding 30 hostages at the agriculture school, only after arriving at NTU."

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