After first insisting that she did nothing wrong, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying (應曉薇) yesterday backtracked and apologized for her remarks that cleaners who spray water on homeless people in parks should receive a cash reward, saying it was only a joke.
However, civic groups called her apology insincere and said the remark was not funny.
“My comment was careless and misconstrued. I would like to apologize to the public for it,” Ying said in front of reporters. “I’m apologizing for what I did wrong, but the fact is that no one sprayed water on the homeless. It’s okay that people misunderstand me, but I will absolutely stand firmly behind my position.”
She said that her remark about a “cash reward” was only a joke.
Ying made her controversial remarks during a question-and-answer session at a city council meeting on Oct. 27, during which she recommended that the city’s Park and Street Lights Office evict homeless people from Bangka Park (艋舺公園), which is in front of Longshan Temple (龍山寺) in Taipei City’s Wanhua District (萬華).
Although the meeting took place in October, a transcript only surfaced recently. Ying’s remarks, including her suggestion that park cleaners who spray water on the homeless should receive cash rewards because the homeless are “too horrible,” quickly drew the ire of civic groups and commentators.
When interviewed by the Taipei Times on Friday, Ying said she had done nothing wrong.
However, as public criticism poured in after a press conference was organized on Saturday by human rights groups, including the Homeless of Taiwan, the Homeless Action Alliance and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Ying apologized.
Despite her public apology, Ying wrote on her Facebook page that homeless people are alcoholics, gamblers and criminals.
“Do you know that among the 600 homeless people in Wanhua, most of them drink and gamble everyday and there are also HIV positive people among them. You always stand behind human rights, but do you know the helplessness of the residents of Wanhua?” she wrote. “In the past few years, there was more than one [homeless person] executed on charges of multiple rape and murder against women and kids — the youngest victim was only three years old. Don’t you see such tragedies?”
Advocacy groups said they did not accept Ying’s apology, especially in light of her remarks on Facebook.
In a statement issued shortly after Ying’s apology, the Homeless of Taiwan and the Homeless Action Alliance said: “The word-by-word transcript has been circulating and many people have read it. It was not just one ‘careless remark,’ rather, there are many discriminatory remarks throughout the meeting made by Ying.”
“She said that ‘giving out cash rewards for those who spray water on the homeless was a joke,’ but we would like to ask: What’s so funny about this ‘joke?’” the statement said. “It’s frightening that a city councilor sees an obviously discriminatory remark as merely a ‘joke,’ and continues to insist on what she believes.”
The groups also said Ying’s Facebook message claiming that several homeless people have been executed for rape was false.
“We all know that nine people were executed last year and this year, and before the first execution last year there had not been an execution for four years,” the statement said. “As far as we know, none of those executed were homeless people.”