The case of a foreigner that assaulted and insulted a bus driver in Taoyuan has become a major piece of news in Taiwan yesterday.
On August 4, a US national of Taiwanese descent named Jason accused a bus driver of not halting at a stop. The driver, surnamed Chen, claimed that the passenger had not pressed the stop button on time, while Jason himself argues that he did. Jason was travelling with his pregnant wife.
A female passenger sunamed Lin uploaded a video in which Jason can be seen shouting at the driver and threatening him. He can be distinctly heard saying to the driver: “I will f*** kill you, bitch”. Jason was furious because the driver had not stopped after he pressed the button. He insulted him repeatedly. The word “f***” can be heard 17 times. Jason also demanded the driver apologise to him. Several elderly people intervened and apologised on behalf of the driver in order to soothe the man who had turned violent and had entirely lost his temper.
Later, Jason explained in a statement that his wife had not pressed the button too late. Because the bus driver had accused his wife of having done so, Jason defended her.
He apologised to the other passengers for his behaviour, but, unexpectedly, he sued the netizen that uploaded the video, accusing her of defaming him. After the video had gone viral, furious netizens had started a search for his and his wife’s identity, apparently with success.
Lin defended herself, saying that she had not sent the video to the media and that she had not started the man-hunting. “You also mentioned my name in your statement,” replied the netizen. “Should I sue you, too?” However, her arguments did not persuade Jason to withdraw the lawsuit. On her Facebook page she said that she needed a lawyer and asked for help.
Lawyer Zhang Chenhao then contacted Lin and offered to defend her for free, earning the praise of many Taiwanese netizens. Zhang quoted a line from a famous Bruce Lee film: “The Chinese are not Asia’s sick man” (中國人不是東亞病夫), an emblematic reference to the period in which the Chinese had been humiliated by the West and by neighbouring Japan.
So far the bus driver has said he won’t sue Jason. But Taoyuan public transport company stated that it is consulting its lawyers. If the man’s behaviour can be considered a threat to the passengers’ security and rights, then the company might sue him.
The ex-secretary-general of the community where Jason lives told the media that he had himself been insulted by him in the past and that what happened cannot be seen as an isolated incident. Jason would lose his temper, complain about things such as cars parked in the wrong place, a neighbour who took a shower late in he evening, etc. The secretary-general confirmed that Jason frequently uses bad words and that he can speak Chinese fluently but often switches to English.
What should we make of this story?
1) First of all, I think it’s obvious that the man’s behaviour should be condemned. His sentence “I will kill you, bitch” is a threat to the bus driver’s life. There are enough reasons to prosecute him. I don’t know if he had pressed the stop button on time or not, but he certainly overreacted.
2) Here we have again the foreigner vs Taiwanese element. I am convinced that the foreign nationality of the man and the fact that he used English made the video much more popular than it might have otherwise been. My impression is that some Taiwanese (even those who like to spend time with foreigners) think that many Westerners are arrogant and come to Taiwan to take advantage of the nice and friendly local people who are way too polite and helpful to foreigners. I myself cannot confirm this view. Although I must admit that I also believed in this stereotype before I came to Taiwan, I have found no evidence to support it. But perhaps I’ll talk about this in another post.
The more or less subconscious resentment felt against foreign arrogance can be seen in Zhang’s astonishing Bruce Lee quote “The Chinese people are not Asia’s sick man“. This is a line from the 1972 martial arts film Fist of Fury. In this film, Bruce Lee produces a “remasculinisation” of the Chinese people, he creates an image of strength and power as opposed to the weak, effeminate and decadent stereotype constructed by Western and Japanese imperialist discourse (see Christopher J. Berry / Mary Ann Farquhar: China on Screen, 2006, Chapter 8).
3) We still do not know what had happened prior to the quarrel and how the bus driver had behaved. There are pretty rude bus drivers out there. Although nothing justifies Jason’s reaction, I think it would be better to wait for the results of the investigations, if the incident will indeed give rise to a series of lawsuits.