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Talk of the Day -- Subway stabbing spree shatters public's trust

2014/05/29 21:32:33

Taiwan has suffered a serious blow in terms of trust in public safety since a lone attacker randomly stabbed four people to death and injured 24 others on the Taipei subway on May 21. It was the first such incident since the system opened in 1996.

The impact of the incident on the public psyche manifested itself on Wednesday when an autistic passenger, mistaken as an attacker, caused passengers on a Taipei Metro train to panic and flee for their lives.

The 24-year-old man was taken to a police station for questioning and was later identified as an autistic person who is also a math prodigy. He was playing with a calculator on the metro train and had accidentally made body contact with a passenger next to him.

The following are excerpts from local newspaper reports on the incident:

China Times:

According to a police investigation, the autistic man had difficulty communicating and passengers on a mass rapid transit train mistakenly thought he was going to harm them.

One passenger picked up a fire extinguisher in self-defense, and another pressed the emergency button to alert authorities, actions that created panic among other passengers, who began screaming and fleeing to other carriages. In the pushing and shoving, one passenger fell and cut his lip.

"No one knew what was happening, but people were running and screaming 'run, run!'" said a passenger, who was also on the train during the attack last week.

"I had no idea what was happening, but I sprinted forward with everyone else," said another passenger, who said she had left all her personal belongings on the train. (May 29, 2014)

United Daily News:

Lin Hsueh-jung, commissioner of the New Taipei Public Health Department, said metro passengers are now easily frightened, which is the worst possible impact of the stabbing spree.

Tuan Yung-chang, a psychiatrist at New Taipei City Hospital, said passengers are suffering from automatic negative thoughts as a result of the killings, which means the smallest sign of trouble can trigger a sense of crisis and expectations of the worst.

Chin Ke-kang, a mental health counselor in New Taipei, said the four fateful minutes on the train last week had destroyed the sense of security on Taiwan's public transportation that had existed for decades.

In an effort to restore that trust, people should show more kindness toward strangers though actions such as playing music on the metro trains or offering hugs, Chin suggested.

Many people in Taiwan have become "frightened birds" since the stabbing incident.

It is difficult to ask people to "calm down," but it is especially important to maintain a level head at this time.

For example, if anyone had stopped for a few seconds during the scare on Wednesday, they would have seen that many people in the third carriage were not moving and the mass panic may have been avoided. (May 29, 2014)

(By Christie Chen)

Related stories:
●May 27: Candlelight vigil held to mourn Taipei metro stabbing victims
●May 25: New Taipei tries to move on from metro trauma