Thursday, 27 September 2007

Live from the Taipei Main Station police station

A second year college student from Yunlin Tech (located in Central Taiwan) disappeared last Friday (21 Sep) and was reported to have been found at Taipei Main Station.

Before she disappeared, she sent a text message to her mother saying goodbye, then left her mobile and wallet in her dorm room. Naturally, her family was worried to death and started asking the media for help in locating her daughter. In times of slow news (like during the holidays), the media just eats this up. Several of the papers ran the stories and several more TV stations followed. Media reported that she may have been suffering from a break-up with her boyfriend and thus decided to runaway. Yesterday (26 Sep) afternoon, on the 6th day of her disappearance, she was found at Taipei Main Station. When police showed her the new stories of her family desperate to find her, she agreed to phone home and let everyone know that she is safe and sound. And when the media got wind of her being found, it caused a small frenzy and SNG vans started setting up outside the train station.

I was working on a story about a new exhibit that just opened up at the National Palace Museum (a display of works by Lee Tse-fan 李澤籓), and got reassigned to go live at the train station. Surprise surprise. What's juicier? Mother and daughter hugging and crying in a heart warming reunion or information on a new exhibit, even if the artist is one of the most famous of his era?

When we arrived (around 16h30), she was in the back room of the police station, waiting for her mother to drive up from central Taiwan to bring her home. She didn't want to be interviewed or filmed, so was hidden very well from sight (and cameras). The police station kept us updated on the location of the mother on the freeway, and when it was announced that she has arrived and the deputy is helping her with parking, cameras were switched on and hoisted into position. Three minutes went by. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Then a female police officer started shuttling between the station and the stairwell that led to the parking garage. Still no mother. Then the door to the back room opened, and the girl, with her entire head covered by a black jacket was ushered out, through the front door and into a car driven by a plain clothes policeman in Yunlin. The police tells us that the mother didn't come and the girl will be drive home by the plain clothes policeman. So no teary-eyed mother, sobbing daughter or heart-warming hugs. Instead, we got a girl with her head wrapped in a black windbreaker, ushered out by half a dozen policewomen into a car. It really looked like a criminal being transported to county lockup or something.

What probably happened was that the family and/or daughter was too embarrassed to show their face and asked the police to do something about it. Possibly, the family waited at the other end of the station and had someone drive the girl over to meet them, avoiding the press.

It was a happy ending for the family, but not for the media. The air was filled with reporters' and cameramen's "太扯了," roughly the equivalent of "unbelievable." What the media wanted was images of a tearful family reunion and perhaps a word of gratitude to the police and media and perhaps even an apology for causing such a ruckus. Nope. Reporters were disappointed and some quite mad. Some felt the family used the media and was totally ungrateful for its help, or at least didn't show their appreciation. I was glad it was a happy ending for the family and I can finally get off work. Bu it was sure an unsatisfying finish to the story.


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