Computex 2002 hit by air raid

Taiwan's Computex 2002 exhibition was thrown into disarray yesterday as Taiwanese authorities staged an air raid drill.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  June 5, 2002

There are lots of things that can go wrong with any big trade show—problems with admission, lack of parking, poor AC or even powercuts—but Taiwan's Computex 2002 suffered a very unusual interruption yesterday—an air raid drill. Attendees found themselves locked inside exhibition halls or wandering deserted streets for half an hour as Taiwan's Civil Defence services went through a training excercise.

Although there were warnings posted at the entrances to the main hall, most attendees were unaware that the drill was taking place, this corresponent among them, until security personnel completely shut down the entrances to buildings and shooed people off the street. Unfortunately most of the security personnel did not speak English, and were therefore unable to explain why conference goers, some 3,000 of them, were now locked in halls, causign confusion and anger as many of them missed appointments in other parts of the exhibition, which is spread over severall locations. Traffic was also halted during the drill, which meant a suspension to shuttle bus services to hotels and halls.

The drill was part of a regular series of training excercises for this island nation's defence forces, which is constantly under threat from its larger neighbour, China. Taiwan split from China in the middle of last century, but China still makes a claim to sovereignty over Taiwan. The government of Taiwan takes the threat of Chinese attack very seriously, and while most Taiwanese took the drill in their stride, there was considerable consternation that the authorities had chosen the middle of the island's industry showcase event to conduct the drill. One Lebanese distributor found himself wandering empty streets in a scene he described as like being in the movie Independence Day.

But alongside the disruption caused to the exhibition, the drill posed a more serious reminder to the IT industry of Taiwan's precarious position in relation to China. "Of all the days to pick, I don't think it should have happened during Computex," commented Lloyd Roberts, of Ulead Systems.

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