Taiwan cabinet official refuses gift of 150 boxes of suncakes

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Cabinet Deputy Secretary-General Hsiao Chia-chi yesterday refused a gift of 150 boxes of suncakes - a Taiwanese traditional dessert - delivered by online activists, noting that he appreciates the gesture but he hopes the food can be given to others who are in need.

Thousands of activists, mostly college students, on Sunday night stormed the Executive Yuan complex. Hsiao and several Cabinet members' offices were breached by protesters during the night. Over 2,000 protesters were evicted by riot police around 5:30 a.m. on Monday.

After the activists were cleared, Hsiao on the same morning showed his office to reporters, saying that protesters damaged the Executive Yuan's historic buildings, took NT$1,000 (S$41) from his drawer, moved his family photo displayed on his desk, smashed and spit betel nut juice on the flowers in his office, and finished the cakes and suncakes that he bought for his colleagues.

Given that over 200 people, including police and activists, were injured during the eviction, Hsiao's remark went viral on the Internet. Many have criticised Hsiao by saying that it is not the time to argue over his stolen suncakes.

In light of this, online activists bought 1,500 suncakes and delivered them to Hsiao's office in the Executive Yuan yesterday. Hsiao, however, rejected the offer. The suncakes were later distributed to student activists around the Legislative Yuan and activists in the Assembly Hall.

The deputy secretary-general explained the incident to local press yesterday afternoon, saying that the point of his remark on Monday was not about how many suncakes were taken by the protesters.

Hsiao said he does not mind students eating the suncakes in his office but people should abide by the laws. He went on to say that acts such as breaching the government office building and taking money from others without permission are not acceptable in a country under the rule of laws and democracy.

Hsiao said he is also a father, and he cares about the country and the young adults' futures. Noting that people own different opinions regarding the service trade pact issue, Hsiao said it is more acceptable if people can express their thoughts in a legal way.

Hsiao said that he appreciates that many people delivered suncakes, cakes and other items to his office, but he will not accept the food, noting that it is better to deliver the food to people who are in need. Hsiao stressed that people should stay focused on the service trade agreement issue.

When asked by reporters if he will press charges against those who took his possessions or damaged items in his office, Hsiao said pressing charges is not an option.

Hsiao said, however, that Taichung Mayor Jason Hu told him many suncake business owners in Taichung called the mayor, saying that their business has been boosted over the past few days.