The flagship Eslite Bookstore in Taipei, on Dunhua S Road, was left red-faced and embarrassed after a Japanese man was wrongfully accused of being a pervert, and assaulted and manhandled by the store’s security guards.
The man was also arrested by police and taken into custody, before eventually being exonerated.
One TV news station reported the visitor, surnamed Fujimoto (藤本), came to Taiwan as an independent tourist and quoted him as saying he wanted to make a “pilgrim visit” to the 24-hour flagship Eslite Bookstore in Taipei.
On Tuesday night, Fujimoto visited the store, carrying his camera. However, a Taiwanese customer in the store thought he was acting suspiciously.
The customer was quoted as saying the man was following a female customer and seemed to be taking pictures of the woman’s underwear from below her skirt, so he alerted the store’s security.
When the guards approached and wanted to question him, they said the visitor turned away and tried to leave the store by running down the stairs.
At that point, he was surrounded by a group of men, including a security guard, an Eslite store employee and several male customers who said they were morally outraged about the incident.
They zeroed in to tackle the tourist, putting him in a headlock and placing his hands and legs in lockholds.
One witness said: “The Japanese man kept shouting, ‘I-tai, i-tai, i-tai’ [“painful” in Japanese]. That was the only word I understood. Maybe it was because no one in the store could speak Japanese, and it led to the misunderstanding.”
The man told them that he had done nothing wrong and that he had not taken pictures of the woman.
The grappling and manhandling of the visitor caused a scene in the store, with a crowd gathering and some people captured the incident on their smartphones.
Despite his plea of innocence, the store called in the police to make an arrest. The man was restrained and taken into custody, then questioned at the police station.
When the police checked the visitor’s camera and smartphone, they did not find any photographs of a sexual nature.
According to a TV news report, the police then searched his hotel room, but found no suspicious photographs and no incriminating evidence. The tourist was released, with the police saying it had been a misunderstanding.
The TV news report said the man felt he was a victim of an unfortunate incident, and did not file a complaint, nor press for a lawsuit.
However, a legal expert said incidents such as this have been happening increasingly of late, warning that actions such as placing the victim in a headlock, or restraining his hands and the other forms of physical assault in this case could lead to charges of causing bodily harm with negligence, especially in a case of wrongful arrest and detention.
Netizens denounced the actions of Eslite Bookstore and the police.
One netizen surnamed Hung (洪) said: “If I carried a camera in the bookstore, and someone thought I was following a woman, maybe I would be accused of being a pervert and might get arrested as well.”
Several people wrote that Eslite and the customers who assisted staff owed the innocent man a big apology.
A man surnamed Su (蘇) said: “This incident is a national disgrace. I feel very sorry for the Japanese tourist. He got badly treated, and I wouldn’t blame him for having a bad impression about Taiwanese.”