23-year-old Zhang Jiale, a first-year student at the SoFA Design Institute in Makati city, was headed into the metro in Manila on Saturday when she was stopped by the officer who told her that before going inside she would have to finish the cup of taho, a Philippine snack food of tofu, syrup, and sago pearls, in her hand.
Instead, Zhang argued with the officer, threw a tantrum, and chucked the cup of taho at his chest.
Zhang was arrested afterward on charges of “direct assault, disobedience to agent or person in authority, and unjust vexation.” Soon, her mugshot went viral along with video of the taho flinging incident.
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 11, 2019
Speaking from a Philippine jail, Zhang has since expressed her remorse for the incident, explaining that she was in a “bad mood” at the time and had not properly controlled her emotions. “I’m really, really sorry. I really ask if it’s possible to have another chance,” she pleaded to reporters. “I really like the Philippines. That’s why I want to stay here. I like people here. I really love Filipinos.”
However, it’s not clear if Zhang’s pleas will manage to win over Philippine authorities. Already, the Bureau of Immigration has found probable cause to deport her and the Mandaluyong city prosecutor’s office has found probable cause to charge her with direct assault, a crime that could result in between six months and six years in prison.
While Zhang has largely become public enemy no. 1 in the Philippines, a symbol of the country’s concerns over increased Chinese visitors, investment, and South China Sea expansion, there are some who are urging caution. Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin has tweeted that the case against Zhang should proceed “calmly,” noting that “she was flinging taho, not encroaching in our national territory.”
She was flinging taho, not encroaching in our national territory. She has a visa, which she will lose, but oh well… brain explosion. https://t.co/I7tCEgKhay
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) February 11, 2019
Locsin earlier called the incident a “non-issue” and warned that continuing to hype it up might well cause an equally over-the-top reaction in China which could end poorly for Filipinos living in the country.
When future historians write of these times, will they mark this incident as the start of the Great Taho War?