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June 25, 2017

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No matter the cause, acts of terror can never be justified

The Boston bombings sent shockwaves across the globe and here in Taiwan the horror left us wondering what harm would have been inflicted on us had the attempted bomb attacks targeting the local public last week succeeded.

We can only imagine the extent of casualties if the two bombs — one planted on a Taiwan High Speed Rail train and one in front of a legislator's office in New Taipei City — had gone off.

The scale of the tragedy probably would not have been as massive as that which hit Boston, but the horror might have been even more intense because the Taiwan populace has been much less psychologically prepared for such bombings than the U.S. people, who experienced the 9/11 ordeal.

Most foreign visitors to Taiwan and most of the nation would be apt and happy to point out that the island is a friendly place, and it is mostly safe. Guns are strictly controlled and the politically marginalized island — in terms of its global and cross-strait positions — has always been far from the center of those conflicts that trigger terrorist attacks in other parts of the world.

But Taiwan has seen a few cases of bombings of its own in the past few decades, rare though they may be. In 1972, provincial Governor Hsieh Tung-min lost a hand in a parcel bomb attack.

Hsieh later went on to become the nation's vice president. The pro-Taiwan independence bomber, Wang Sing-nan, was jailed for life, but received a pardon from President Lee Teng-hui in 1990. Wang was released and is now a member of the Legislature representing the Democratic Progressive Party.

In the early 2000s, the "Rice Bomber," Yang Ju-men, planted several bombs in public places in a campaign to raise awareness of the possible plight that local farmers might face after Taiwan entered the World Trade Organization.

His bombs were hardly meant to cause major harm. Two went off but no one was injured. But they were enough to inflict fear in the public.

Yang was caught later and was given a relatively light sentence. Public opinion was not too harsh on him, and many sympathized with him and his agenda, which was to help local farmers.

The villains in these two incidents have since become more or less heroes. Wang now continues to advocate his pro-independence cause — openly — in the nation's Legislature.

Yang, according to one 2009 AFP report of his story, continues to promote his agenda, "only now he pursues it by peaceful means" in the form of organic farming.

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