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Tue, Apr 10, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Hostage drama survivor speaks about book

On Nov. 18 1997, after an islandwide chase, murderer Chen Chin-hsing took the family of then South African military attache McGill Alexander hostage. yesterday, back in Taipei after more than three years, McGill, his wife Anne and daughter Christine spoke with `Taipei Times' reporter Crystal Hsu about how their family overcame the traumatic experience and their thoughts about forgiveness

A former South African diplomat to Taiwan and survivor of a high-profile hostage drama in Taipei during 1997, McGill Alexander, held a news conference with his family to promote a book he has written on the subject, yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: Did you know who Chen Chin-hsing (陳進興) was when he broke into your house?

Christine: I did know who he was and when I first saw him, I went blank.

McGill: We were all scared. When he came in, the first person who saw him was Christine. She was playing the piano at that time. He had his arm around her neck, pointed a gun at her, and forced her to walk up the stairs. As soon as I saw that, I told the whole family to do exactly what he says and don't make any sudden movements. We knew he had killed people and raped people although we didn't know how many. But we knew we were dealing with a very desperate, dangerous criminal. That is why I said to my family do not resist him.

TT: How did the shooting start?

McGill: There was shooting between the police and Chen for nearly an hour. The police attacked the house to try to kill him, and then he began to shoot. He had two guns, one pointed at my head. With the other he was shooting at the police.

TT: Did you try to resist?

McGill: We were all tied up. He kept saying `sorry, sorry' when he was tying us up. He tied our hands behind our back, went to the telephone and called the police saying he held us hostage. He wanted to speak to top officials. But it seemed the police would not believe him. He became very angry and called the media and told them his demands. He said that unless his demands were satisfied, he would not release his hostages. After that, the police came to find out what it was all about. When they arrived, he warned them to stay away from the house and they would not. When they came closer, he started to shoot the gun, and the police started to shoot back at him.

TT: How do you respond to comments from skeptics, notably Pai Pin-pin (白冰冰), that you can talk about forgiveness because you survived the incident?

McGill: We can understand how she feels. It is not possible for us to say that we would have forgiven Chen if one of our family members had been killed. Perhaps we would not. I don't know. Because we are Christians and Christ teaches us in the Bible to love your enemies and to pray for those people who treat you badly. Even at the time the shooting was taking place, we were praying for ourselves to be released from the situation and that Chen could have the evil around him replaced by love. But I cannot say that if one of us had been killed we would be able to handle the situation the way we did. All I can say is that I understand why Pai Pin-pin holds this resentment towards the man. But we would like to share with people like her how it is possible to overcome the difficulty. By doing so, we hope we can ease their pain.

TT: Have you had the chance to talk to Pai?

McGill: So far we haven't had the opportunity to talk with her. We are not making any of the arrangements for our visit to Taiwan.

TT: Did any of you go through psychological counseling because of the crisis?

McGill: We all received psychological counseling after we were back in South Africa. Unfortunately, we only started getting counseling two months after the incident took place. Anne had more counseling. She became depressed later because she began to ask herself why she didn't prevent us from getting shot.

TT: How would you describe your memory of Chen?

McGill: He was much smaller and younger than me. He did not look very fierce to me. But he had his gun in his hand and pointed it at my daughter, and that was enough to frighten me.

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