Civic groups yesterday rebutted accusations from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying (應曉薇) that the groups made baseless allegations about her suggesting the Taipei City Government spray water on the homeless and that the groups were manipulated by politicians.
“There was no political motivation behind what we did,” Homeless of Taiwan (HOT) executive member Kuo Ying-ching (郭瑩靖) told a news conference. “In fact, we made the same criticisms against a Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilor when the councilor also made some discriminatory gesture against the homeless in Taipei.”
“We don’t care about green or blue; human rights are our sole concern,” she added. “It is Ying, who has threatened to sue us only three days after the elections — despite apologizing for what she said before — who has political considerations.”
Last month, the groups showed video clips of homeless people sleeping in a park in front of Longshan Temple in Taipei City’s Wanhua District (萬華) being awakened in the middle of the night as the cleaning squad sprayed water on the park ground.
A transcript of a question-and-answer session in the Taipei City Council in October last year showed that Ying had asked the city’s Park and Street Lights Office to spray water twice — once at 6am and again at 11pm — to make sure the homeless would not be able to sleep in the park during the night.
She went as far as saying that whoever sprayed water on the homeless “should receive a cash award.”
However, Ying accused civic groups — including HOT, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), the People’s Democratic Front and the Homeless Action Alliance — at a press conference on Tuesday of being manipulated by politicians and said that their allegations were false.
Ying has said that most of the homeless are criminals and that a lot of those who took food donations were “fake” homeless people.
“We’ve been in touch with many homeless people and most of them are victims of discrimination, not criminals,” said Tai Yu-hui (戴瑜慧), an instructor at HOT’s photography class for the homeless.
“Ying said that a homeless man was executed for raping a three-year-old girl ‘in recent years,’ but it’s actually something that happened more than a decade ago and it was the only crime committed by a homeless man in more than a decade,” Tai added.
Tai also said that there’s no such thing as a “fake homeless person,” since all homeless people are living in extreme poverty.
“You know, some people make NT$3,000 to NT$15,000 [US$100 to US$500] a month and they have to choose whether to use the money to buy food or rent a place to live,” Tai said. “If they choose to buy food, they wouldn’t have money for shelter and if they choose to rent a place to live, then they wouldn’t have money to eat and have to get donated food meant for the homeless.”
TAHR director of media and publications Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎) said it was natural in a democracy that elected politicians be under the public’s watch.
“If a politician tries to sue civic groups because of our criticism, the politician is certainly compromising the people’s freedom of speech,” Chiu said.