Presidential Office security beefed up

UPGRADES::Plans to arm guards with net guns, erect a ‘landscape fence’ and replace car park roller doors have been approved and await funding before being implemented

By Lo Tien-bin  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Mar 11, 2018 - Page 1

The Presidential Office Building has purchased new security equipment for its guards and is expected to make minor modifications to the nearly 100-year-old building.

The series of measures were adopted in response to a politically motivated civilian attack on Aug. 18 last year, when a 51-year-old man, surnamed Lu (呂), wielded a Japanese sword and slashed the neck of a military police officer guarding the west wing of the building at the intersection of Boai Road and Zhangsha Street.

The man reportedly told prosecutors that he had been thinking about beheading President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for some time.

The attack followed a 2014 incident, when a man drove a truck through a bullet-proof screen and into the main gate of the Presidential Office Building, saying he was protesting a judicial hearing involving his ex-wife.

“In addition to guns, we have also equipped the building’s military police with nonlethal net guns that can be used to entangle or paralyze a suspect by applying an electric current if necessary,” said a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The office also upgraded the response force responsible for guarding the west wing following last year’s attack, the official added.

The official said the net gun, which is domestically produced, can target someone within 8m or 3m2, and was used by security details assigned to presidential candidates in the 2016 election campaign.

However, the official declined to reveal whether the net guns were acquired from the Ministry of National Defense’s 205th Armory, like those used by the candidates’ security services.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office on Feb. 22 submitted to the Legislative Yuan a security review report, as requested by lawmakers when they approved the office’s budget proposal for this fiscal year on Jan. 30.

The office has stepped up security and last year adjusted its security arrangements to install a so-called “landscape fence” around the building, the report said.

“The landscape fence is made from stainless steel wire mesh, which is strong and durable, but does not block sight. It is often used around large-scale public infrastructure and sports arenas,” a Presidential Office official said, adding that the fence would only be installed around areas of the Presidential Office Building that require bolstered security.

As the building is a significant historical landmark, any additions to structures are regulated by the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法), the official said.

Experts from the Ministry of Culture inspected the site in November and December last year and have given their unanimous approval for the fence, the official said.

The report also laid out short and medium-term plans for the building’s security enhancement, which were devised at a national security meeting held on the day of last year’s attack.

In the short term, the office is to shorten patrol intervals, improve structures that separate the building from the public and adjust security guard arrangements, the report said.

In the medium term, the focus is to be placed on improving the building’s infrastructure, including erecting the landscape fence and replacing rolling shutters to car parks, the report said.

The office said the proposed measures would be carried out as soon as funding for the projects is finalized.