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June 24, 2017

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In wake of truck attack, don't let security trump freedoms

The heavy trailer that slammed into the presidential palace in the wee hours of Saturday woke Taiwan to another reality about the state of its security. The president, on whose well being the stability and smooth functioning of the state depends, was potentially, though not realistically, exposed to danger.

Though not on par with the March 14, 2004 attempt made on the lives of former president Chen Shui-bian and vice president Annette Lu, the brazen penetration of the massive vehicle demonstrates that there are serious deficiencies in security.

One may ask in the wake of this incident what additional steps now need to be taken. Twenty concrete flower stands have been placed in front of the building and roadblocks such as tire-busting nails have been repaired. Extra personnel have also been sent to reinforce the location.

President Ma's safety was not compromised this time around because he was away at Sao Tome. The absence of explosives also significantly decreased the danger that the crash suspect Chang Teh-cheng posed. Speculation about a failed marriage and a child custody battle surround his possible motives.

Existing security measures were effective to a certain extent, as evidenced by the quick action of members of the military police, who activated the bullet-proof gate as the trailer charged across Ketagalan boulevard. Despite not being fully deployed the gate significantly contained the damage, according to reports.

Here we face a dilemma: The presidential palace is renowned for its closeness to the public, with pedestrians able to walk around its outer wings just like normal buildings. The red and white building and the wide, spacious Ketagalan Boulevard running perpendicular to it are symbols of the freedoms that Taiwan enjoys. Whenever there are mass protests, the boulevard is the most recognized and widely used arena for airing all sorts of grievances — from gatherings of pork farmers egging photos of Ma to white shirt protesters hollering for justice for Corporal Hung Chung-chiu.

It is precisely this freedom that should not be compromised as society ponders its next move. Veteran pan-blue legislator Lin Yu-fang suggested moving the presidential office altogether, according to the United Evening News. We believe that relocation plans such as his are an overreaction and would be a costly project not politically feasible.

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