Yesterday, 26 May, passengers of the Taipei Metro were shocked when they saw a man wearing a military uniform and a gas mask and sitting on a train of the Bannan line, the same line in which last week’s knife attack happened. The man was holding a rifle, and hand grenades were hooked to his belt. Several passengers were alarmed and called the police.
At Taipei Main Station, the man got off and was soon surrounded by the police. But, as it turned out, this seems to have been just a misunderstanding. As Apple Daily reported, the weapons weren’t real and the man was heading to an Airsoft site located near Jiantan Station. When asked by the police why he entered the MRT dressed like that, he just said: “It looks good!”
After the knife attack on the Taipei MRT, in which four people were killed and more than twenty were injured, a wave of hysteria seems to have swept the Taiwanese capital. A few days ago, a woman showed up on the MRT holding a sword in her hand. The unusual images immediately circulated online.
More alarming is the fact that some people declared on the internet they were planning attacks inspired by Zheng Jie’s carnage. The police arrested 19 people who threatened to carry out similar action on the MRT. One of the people detained had written on Facebook: “What Zheng Jie did on the Bannan line I will do on the Danshui line“. Never before had the collective imagination of Taiwanese been so focused on violence on the MRT.
As a result, it seems as if many people didn’t feel safe any more, as if they were more suspicious. As Taiwan Voice reported, within four days after the knife attack the number of MRT passengers decreased by 470,000. After all, has the incident not shown how vulnerable the MRT is? If a young man alone could kill and wound so many people with a simple knife, who can guarantee that such a tragedy will not happen again? Only a few days ago, no one in Taiwan had even thought about such a question, as the MRT was universally considered one of the safest in the world. The MRT was a symbol of the civility the Taiwanese people would like to see as a fundamental part of their national identity.
However, Zheng Jie’s attack is an isolated case. I think a society cannot develop healthily if it is stifled by fear. There are good reasons for being cautious, always. But we cannot let a few violent individuals terrorise the peaceful majority.