Chinese student regrets 'pudding tantrum'

Immigration bureau lawyers "have found probable cause" to deport Zhang Jiale (left) over the incident in which the Chinese student threw soya pudding at a police officer (above).
Immigration bureau lawyers "have found probable cause" to deport Zhang Jiale (above) over the incident in which the Chinese student threw soya pudding at a police officer.PHOTO: PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, PAU MESIAS/FACEBOOK
Immigration bureau lawyers "have found probable cause" to deport Zhang Jiale (left) over the incident in which the Chinese student threw soya pudding at a police officer (above).
Immigration bureau lawyers "have found probable cause" to deport Zhang Jiale over the incident in which the Chinese student threw soya pudding at a police officer (above).PHOTO: PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, PAU MESIAS/FACEBOOK

She may be deported after sparking outrage in Philippines for hurling soya pudding at cop

A Chinese arts student who sparked public outrage in the Philippines after she threw a cup of soya pudding at a police officer has expressed remorse over her behaviour.

This comes as lawyers for the immigration bureau recommend that Zhang Jiale be deported.

"I (was) really in a bad mood, and I was not able to control my emotion... I feel so regretful," she told GMA News on Monday in jail.

"I'm really, really sorry. I really ask if it's possible to have another chance for me… I really like the Philippines... I really love Filipinos," said the 23-year-old freshman at the SoFA Design Institute.

Zhang, whose father is an investor, has been living in the Philippines for six years.

The immigration bureau said yesterday that its lawyers "have found probable cause" to deport her. Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente added: "The bureau will not tolerate such acts, as this shows disrespect to the country."

But Zhang's lawyer Sandra Respall called the incident "a very minor omission, which just went viral".

 
 
 
 

In the incident on Saturday, police officer William Cristobal stopped Zhang from going into a Metro Rail Transit (MRT) station in Manila as she was holding a cup of soya pudding. He told Zhang that she would have to finish it before she could enter the station.

The government has banned certain liquid and gel items on the MRT because of reports that militants are planning to bomb public transport systems in Manila.

Zhang argued with the officer and in an outburst, hurled her cup of pudding at his chest.

A photo of the visibly upset Zhang and the policeman with his soiled shirt, as well as a video of the altercation, went viral on social media.

Across Facebook and Twitter, Zhang was derided for her arrogance and for being disrespectful. Some said her behaviour reflected the purportedly low regard many Chinese had for the Philippines, on account of President Rodrigo Duterte's policy to warm relations with China in exchange for investments for his ambitious US$169 billion (S$230 billion) infrastructure-building programme.

Many Filipinos believe his pivot towards China is encouraging hordes of Chinese to move to the Philippines, taking away jobs from locals and jacking up property prices. Many are also unhappy Mr Duterte has glossed over territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, as he courts Chinese investors.

Zhang, who has been charged with "direct assault, disobedience… and unjust vexation", could be jailed for between four months and four years, if found guilty.

The police officer, meanwhile, received a medal for keeping his cool. "I just did what our… (police) chief wanted us to do, which is to have a lot of patience and do what is right for our country."

Some Philippine leaders have joined in the criticism of Zhang. Vice-President Leni Robredo called her actions "disrespectful" and an "insult to all Filipinos".

But Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin has warned that the outrage could provoke an equally emotional response in China, which could affect Filipinos working there, and those in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

He said while Zhang deserved to be charged, deporting her would be an overreaction. "She was flinging taho, not encroaching on our national territory," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2019, with the headline 'Chinese student regrets 'pudding tantrum''. Print Edition | Subscribe