Fri, Apr 20, 2007 - Page 2 News List

VT students to get safety advice

FALLOUT Fearing a backlash against individuals of Asian origin following the Virginia Tech massacre, TECRO has sent an official to warn Taiwanese students to be on alert


A senior official of Taiwan's representative office in Washington was on his way to Virginia Tech yesterday to meet Taiwanese students and faculty in the wake of Monday's shootings, which left 33 people dead and many wounded.

Andy Bi, the first secretary of the cultural division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), plans to talk to the students about taking safety measures and to warn them of the possibility of racist attacks by residents of the area.

Several South Korean students at the university have been quoted in newspapers as worrying that racist attacks or harassment could follow the killings, since the gunman was a 23-year-old immigrant from South Korea.

This has, in turn, led to concerns that such attacks could spill over to Taiwanese students, Margaret Lee, director of TECRO's cultural division, told the Taipei Times.

Initial reports on the day of the massacre said that the gunman was of Asian descent and might have been a recent Chinese immigrant from Shanghai.

"We are concerned that some young people from the community would express their hatred. They don't know the difference between Taiwanese, Chinese and Koreans," Lee said.

"So we are asking our young students to pay a little more attention, to be more alert to anything unusual, any suspicious event. They should pay more attention to protect themselves," she said.

Female students should be especially wary, Lee said.

"We will advise the ladies to go out with a group," she said.

Lee said the warning was only precautionary, adding that there had been no threats against Taiwanese students.

The university is located in a rural area of southwest Virginia. Racial divisions and tensions are still strong in the area and other areas of the South, where many people still display the flag of the Confederacy on their cars and elsewhere. Such symbols are considered by many to be a public profession of racism.

While racist feelings are mostly aimed at blacks, they are also aimed at other minority groups.

In addition to meeting with students and faculty, Bi will carry with him letters of condolence from Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) and from the new representative to the US, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮).

With classes at Virginia Tech scheduled to reopen on Monday after a weeklong suspension in the wake of the tragedy, Taiwanese authorities felt it was important to meet the students and faculty about safety matters quickly, Lee said.

In Taipei, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) was busy buying T-shirts, hats and stickers bearing the word "Taiwan."

Hsueh said yesterday that some Taiwanese students in the US had asked Taiwanese compatriot organizations or their families to send them clothes or hats with the word "Taiwan" or "Taipei" or stickers of the national flag in a bid to help distinguish them from South Korean nationals after Monday's killings.

Students can protect themselves by wearing things bearing the name "Taiwan" because Taiwanese students are usually considered the most hard-working and kindest students in US schools, Hsueh said.

People in the US generally have a good impression of Taiwanese students, she said, adding that it was also a chance to distinguish themselves from Chinese students.

Additional reporting by Flora Wang

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