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Baby-eating allegations denied by irate officials

HOUSE OF HORRORS: Officials lashed out at a story in a Malaysian tabloid that people in Taiwan eat babies, saying that the report was totally without foundation

By Chuang Chi-ting

Government officials have filed a complaint with a Malaysian weekly tabloid that published an unsubstantiated story that an unnamed local restaurant had served human fetuses and the bodies of babies to its customers.

The publication has promised to publish a correction in its next issue.

People First Party's Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠) yesterday held a press conference at which she revealed the report on the alleged "strange diet" of people in Taiwan. Chin said a friend brought her the magazine from Brunei.

"A Brunei customs official curiously inquired of my friend whether people in Taiwan really eat human fetuses and babies' bodies as reported in the article. The official told him that rumors had been circulating because of the publ-ication," said Chin, who invited officials from other government departments to the press conference.

All the officials dismissed the report. The Government Information Office (GIO, 新聞局) said that its representative in Malaysia had spoken to the reporter and established that the article was based on an allegation contained in an e-mail.

Perdana, the tabloid which published the article in Malay and has a circulation of roughly 10,000, is a "sensationalist newspaper," according to the GIO. In the article, the reporter accused a Taiwanese restaurant of obtaining human fetuses from illegal abortions and the bodies of babies which had died, at a price of about NT$600 each.

The article accused the restaurant of deep-frying and roasting the fetuses and babies for "specials."

Along with the report, two pictures purporting to show the alleged "cuisine" were printed, in which the alleged baby's fingers and face could be seen.

Yuan Kai-sheng (袁凱聲), a GIO official, said that he understood that the allegation had been circulating as an e-mail long before Perdana published it. "The original message pointed the finger at restaurants in rural areas of China before the alleged culprit became a Taiwanese restaurant," Yuan said.

Yuan said the GIO had filed a complaint with Perdana and requested that a correction be published. He said the tabloid had apologized to the GIO for publishing an unsubstantiated story and had agreed to publish a correction in its next issue.

The Criminal Investigation Bureau (警政署) said that investigations had not uncovered any cases of the sort described in the article, but that the bureau would keep an eye out to make sure that babies were really not being served in local restaurants.

The bureau said that eating and serving such a dish is against the law. According to the Criminal Code, people who defile human corpses may be jailed for between six months and five years.

But there are only minor penalties for the unlawful treatment of fetuses under environmental regulations governing the management of "medical waste."

Chan Te-wang (詹德旺), senior administrative officer at the Bureau of Medical Affairs of the Department of Health, said yesterday that a two-day investigation into the matter had confirmed the allegation that hospitals had been selling fetuses and bodies to be untrue.

The pictures in question may be found at the following Web site:

Warning: Though believed to be fabricated, the pictures nonetheless are graphic.

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