The Taipei City Government and a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) city councilor yesterday hurled accusations back and forth over the Maokong Gondola, with the city government accusing the councilor of trespassing in a restricted area and damaging public property, while the councilor accused the city government of poor management.
The controversy stemmed from a video clip Formosa TV broadcast on Sunday that showed DPP Taipei City Councilor Hung Chien-yi (洪健益) at an open door at the gondola’s Maokong Station and accusing the city government of lax security. Hung said he had been able to easily gain access to a restricted area at the station.
The Maokong Gondola has been shut down for more than a year after landslides damaged several of its pillars.
The city government responded by accusing Hung of staging a “fake news report” about the security issue, saying he had damaged a door as he forcefully broke into the restricted area.
Hung said at a news conference the video clip that Formosa TV broadcast had been made after his assistant Chang Pai-hui (張百惠) discovered the lax state of security at the station on Friday.
He and Chang yesterday demanded that the city government release Friday’s footage from surveillance cameras at the station to prove that the entrance was not secure.
Tearfully asking the city government to release the surveillance footage to back up their claims about security problems, Chang said nobody had stopped her when she was videotaping the site on Friday until a man identifying himself as an employee of the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) confronted her and asked for her identification.
Chang said the man asked her to sign a security log book at the entrance, because the area was not open to the public, but she declined. She asked why the door was open if the area was restricted.
Hung said he would not rule out taking legal action against the city government for questioning the veracity of the videotape he had released on Sunday. He also dismissed the city government’s allegation that the video had been staged.
The councilor said he would accept responsibility for his conduct on Sunday if it were deemed inappropriate, but urged the city to refrain from “blurring the focus” and explain the management deficiency his assistant discovered on Friday.
Hung added that the city’s Law and Regulation Commission head, Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元), had pressured him to refrain from releasing more video clips and to “not complicate the matter.”
The city government, at a separate news conference yesterday, said Hung had staged the entire incident and accused him of making groundless allegations.
The TRTC has taken legal action against Hung and two other men and one woman for trespassing, theft and damaging public property, it added.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said that while it was the city councilors’ job to keep the city government in check, they still had to obey the law.
Forced entry at restricted areas was illegal even for city councilors, he said.
Hau said Hung had set a bad example by damaging public property, and added that the city had provided the police with all the evidence at its disposal to assist the investigation.
Commenting on Hung’s allegation against him, Yeh said that he had called Hung, but it was only to remind him that he and his assistant could be prosecuted for trespassing and theft.
‘BLURRING THE FOCUS’
Yeh also urged Hung to refrain from “blurring the focus” of the matter, adding that “the answer was clear about whether it was illegal to enter a building without permission, vandalize the door and remove documents from the building.”
“A man who has done something illegal is not in a position to accuse other people of doing something wrong,” Yeh said.
The city government later yesterday made public footage recorded by the surveillance camera on Friday.
Taipei City Government spokesman Chao Hsin-ping (趙心屏) said the city had no choice but to comply with Hung’s request.
Chao said the city government would not take any legal action against Chang.
The footage showed a woman looking at an open door at the Maokong Gondola at 1:44pm. The woman returned at 1:46pm with a camera. She was confronted by security personnel at 1:48pm and asked to leave at 1:49pm.
Chao said the area was restricted and the door was left open because workers had needed to move some machinery into the station.
The TRTC said yesterday there was a sign outside the main entrance of the station saying the area was restricted and that violators would be subject to criminal prosecution.
The TRTC said the wooden door had been replaced with a steel door and that the locks were replaced.
Security patrols would also be increased, the TRTC said.
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