Tue, Apr 21, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Sun Moon Lake in quandary over Falun Gong protest

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following complaints from several tourists, the director of the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration said yesterday it did not know how to deal with the Falun Gong protesters at the nation’s premier scenic spot.

Tseng Kuo-chi (曾國基), director of administration, told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview that the protests by Falun Gong members were directed at Chinese tourists, who normally visit Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, the National Palace Museum and other popular tourist attractions.

“You can’t just penalize them for petitioning for a certain cause, otherwise they will accuse Taiwan of suppressing their freedom of speech,” Tseng said.

Tseng said his administration had tried to regulate the behavior of Falun Gong members with the statutes governing the display of commercial advertisements in national scenic areas because they had tied banners and billboards to trees. As a result, the members now just hold the banners and billboards in their hands.

Tseng said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of Justice have exchanged views on the matter and both were concerned that the nation’s image would be tarnished if the situation were mismanaged.

Nevertheless, Tseng said the administration would continue to communicate visitors’ concerns with the group’s representatives.

The Taipei Times contacted Tseng after it ran a letter on Monday from Canadian Paul Gallien, a high school teacher who visited Sun Moon Lake last week and was disturbed by a Falun Gong display he saw at one of the shoreline temples.

“Part of the display included very graphic images of dead bodies, including a pregnant woman with parts of her skin and flesh removed revealing an unborn child within the womb,” Gallien wrote.

While he had “sympathies for any group that experiences hardship,” he wrote, he did not “appreciate being randomly exposed to these types of images, even if I am mature enough to handle the experience.”

Traveling with his two-year-old daughter and her five-year-old cousin, Gallien said he doubted the two youngsters “have necessary faculties to avoid being traumatized by such photographs.”

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