Monday, 20 August 2007
Making a difficult job even more difficult
We were assigned to stand by outside the education minister's residence. These assignments come once in a while, and I hate them because it's rude and the only response we usually get is a dirty look from the minister as he steps into his car and drives away.
杜正勝 (Du Zhengsheng), the minister of education, is a very difficult person to get a statement from. He appears to dislike media, and to a certain extent, most reporters that cover him dislike covering him, partly because almost all of the time, he won't stop to give anyone a statement, leaving everyone to chase after him and causing a mess of cameramen, reporters and microphones to collide like they do in a rugby scrum when he finally ducks into a building or a car. The other day, he violently pushed a microphone in front of him away and shoved a cameraman, sending the cameraman slamming against a wall. The following day, he held a press conference to explain his actions. He said, "If I hurt the cameraman in any way, I apologize. But I have to let you know, microphones are ridden with bacteria." Perhaps he meant that he was sorry and that he really hates dirty microphones shoved in his face. But the way he explained himself, it sounded to everyone like he shoved the cameraman because microphones are dirty. Of course, the media had a field day with this, and legislators from both camps and even the president had something to say about it. It reminds me of that time when he tried to cover President Chen's misuse of an idiom (罄竹難書). He seems to have a knack with portraying himself as a very eccentric academic and a heavily misunderstood public servant.
As a public servant, he has a responsibility to answer the questions related to issues that his ministry is responsible for, but his response to not responding is that he will not encourage the media to show up and expect an answer from him without scheduling an appointment at the ministry in advance. Common practice when one doesn't want to answer questions at a particular time is to stop, face the reporters and cameras and say, "I have no comment at this time," and then turn around and leave. Funny how he is able to be a minister and not able to say "no comment." Well, no assigner wants to play his game, so we get assigned to show up at his public appearances to push him to say something, and he usually doesn't. So when they are really desperate, the send us to his house at the crack of dawn. Putting a camera over the top of the walls to capture images of the inside is really unethical, but that's what some assigners expect these days. In situations like this, I'd much rather stand on the other side of the street, talk to an imaginary friend and pretend that I'm a patient who's just escaped from the looney bin, than hold a microphone and do what all the other reporters are doing. Sigh.