Journalists are always on the lookout for the unexpected. However, when visits by foreign officials change the behavior of people here and turn Taiwanese against Taiwanese, the situations that emerge can border on the bizarre.
One such incident occurred yesterday, when the management of a five-star hotel verbally clashed with guests as if they were sworn enemies. Even more disturbing was the sight of service professionals pulling, shoving and chasing people in the hotel lobby.
All this happened yesterday morning at the landmark Grand Hotel in Taipei, when members of the Taiwan Friends of Tibet (TFOT) complained over the hotel’s unilateral cancelation of a room they had reserved for a press conference.
“Yes, we simply don’t want to rent a room to you, so what? What can you do?” a hotel employee told TFOT president Chow Mei-li (周美里).
While such words could have been expected of an overzealous young employee, this wasn’t the case; the speaker was the hotel’s assistant manager for food and beverages, Chen Wei-teh (陳維德).
Earlier, while arguing with Chow, sales manager Michael Chen (陳行中) asked political commentator Paul Lin (林保華), who is also head of the Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps, to take down a headband with his organization’s name written on it, saying it was inappropriate to do so “in a business establishment in operation.”
“I know that, but we are an officially registered NGO [non-governmental organization]. How can it be ‘inappropriate’ to show the organization’s name in a business establishment that is open to the public?” Lin asked.
Chen did not answer.
Such clashes pitting Taiwanese against Taiwanese occurred over a delegation headed by Sichuan Province Governor Jiang Jufeng (蔣巨峰), who was taking part in a symposium on business and tourism in Sichuan at the hotel.
One of the hotel employees said the Grand Hotel management was just trying to avoid an “unpleasant sight” for the Chinese guests.
Yesterday’s unusual incident wasn’t the first one since Jiang arrived on Saturday night.
On Sunday, when Tibet support groups staged a demonstration at Taipei Zoo’s Panda Hall as Jiang was visiting, zoo officials rerouted Jiang’s tour to avoid his coming into contact with protesters.
Oddly enough, it appears that Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) was not told of the change and waited at the main entrance to greet Jiang, only to see Jiang’s convoy pass him by.
More worrying, while the host of an event would normally oversee media affairs, when Jiang visited the zoo, members of his delegation told reporters what to do, with zoo and city officials standing aside, silent.