July 16-22, 2012
Reported by Chiou Kuo-rong
Written by Lydia Ma
It is believed that one of the most ludicrous examples of environmental reviews in Taiwan is the case concerning the development of Meiliwan Resort Hotel on Shanyuan Beach in Taitung. The developer of this resort ignored the Supreme Administrative Court ruling months ago that the resort is illegal and construction must stop due to many irregularities found in Taitung County’s review of the environmental impact of this resort village. So far, not only has the county failed to enforce a halt, it has called for another environmental assessment and given out building permits in advance. Furthermore, workers and construction equipment continue to be active at the site.
This controversy was re-ignited recently when two demonstrators present at the June 2, 2012 county environmental assessment meeting deliberately “gave the finger” in protest of the county’s actions and were subsequently called in for questioning by the district police department on July 10 and 11 on charges of “obstructing public meetings” and “defamation”. In Mandarin, the sound of the word used to describe the third finger is identical to the sound for the word used for “stop”.
In response to these charges, leaders from 35 organizations across Taiwan came forward to support these two protesters by calling a joint press conference on July 10, 2012 at the Legislative Yuan. These organizations supporting the protesters include the Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition of Taiwan, the PCT Church and Society Committee, the DPP, the Green Party, the Citizen of the Earth, and the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association. They protested against Taitung County’s violation of judicial decisions and its suppression of freedom of speech on that day.
One spokesperson for indigenous peoples who is also a PCT member underscored at this press conference that significant areas of Hualien and Taitung are home to Amis indigenous groups and their rights and well-being should be a prime concern for the government, as stated in the Aboriginal Basic Act. However, many development projects across Taiwan not only destroy and infringe on indigenous peoples’ lands, but also fail to consider sustainability issues. It is time for local Taiwanese governments to stop this trend and start enforcing the Aboriginal Basic Act.
“I wonder who the government is trying to protect?” asked PCT Church and Society Committee Secretary Huang Che-yen. He added that quite a lot of people took part in the June 2 protest to voice their concern. However, police officers responded with violence. In contrast, developers working at the Meiliwan Resort – a resort that has been declared illegal by the courts – have not been bothered by law enforcement agencies. Huang said that Taitung County has lost its credibility.
According to one of the protestors being sued, police officers sided with people who approved of the Meiliwan project and used violent means to physically remove those opposing this project from the venue where the protest was being held and later on sued them.