Camp-in Protest against Beach Hotel in Taidong

I was asked to help translate a pamphlet regarding a camp-in protest against the Big Hotel on Shan Yuan Beach (known, perversely, as Mei Li Wan). The protest is called ‘The Fence’. Not being able to read Chinese, I spoke to an Amis woman called Pitek, who talked about the contents of the pamphlet and other things. She has been involved with the protest from the beginning. Rather than go for a direct word for word translation, I am just giving the general gist of some of the stuff she told me, and weighing in a bit myself while I’m at it.
Where: Shan Yuan Beach on the beach side of the hotel (about 20 minutes nth from Tai Dong train station - km mark: 153)
When: June 10 - July10. A continuous presence will be maintained there throughout that time. It’s bloody hot before 4 o’clock, so after then and into the evening is probably the best time to do your continuous presence-ing. There was some talk at the meeting tonight of extending past July 10. It’ll depend on the support.
Beach Party: Fri, July 1, 9pm. BYO drinks (and take home your empties) Dulan style of mixed performances. If you can do something (pretty well), you’d be welcome to contribute.
What: The camp-in has been organized by a local Dulan artists’ collective, and the camp is a work of art already, but everyone is welcome to join in whether you have an artistic bone in your body or not. The main point is to hang out, create a presence there, share a meal, maybe a cold one, a chat, and someone always seems to have a guitar around in Dulan, so probably a bit of beach party stuff on the weekends as well.
One of the beauties of this area is that there is a strong community vibe, and there has been a long history of protest against this kind of BOT development (not sure what that stands for but it basically means privatizing development of government lands). Before this, there were plans to develop Dulan Beach. A local artist, Chen Ming-Tsai, committed suicide as a protest against the development by walking into the sea. The development was stopped. His was a sad, desperate statement, but out of that lonely despair, a spirit of community concern for the unique environment of Tai Dong has grown, and The Fence is part of this.
The camp has been set up in front of the huge, ugly tin fence erected on the beach by the hotel. As an artistic kind of juxtaposition, the campers have built their own ‘fence’ out of driftwood, which anyone can walk through. Not only does it look a lot better, but it brings into focus the hotel’s purely money driven goal of privatizing one of Taiwan’s most beautiful and safe family beaches and excluding the general public from it. A rough equivalent would be building a massive, ugly assed hotel right on, not just near, Bondi beach (for example) and then fencing the whole place off and telling people they needed to pay to go onto it.

Sounds outrageous, right? But wait there’s more. The hotel was built without first undergoing an obligatory environmental impact statement –and Pitek says that it didn’t even have a building permit! You’ve heard of the illegal rooftop apartment, well this is the same thing but a thousand times the size built right on the beach. Pretty hard to miss if you were a building inspector.

However, as Pidek says, it was noticed by a lot of other people, especially the people who were living in the village next door to it, and a protest movement began with the aim of stopping it in the building stage. It was challenged on the grounds that it hadn’t done an obligatory environmental impact statement for a building of that size. The case went to the high court which said, ‘no, you clearly haven’t done an environmental impact statement, building needs to stop, and you need to get one done’. The environmental impact statement was done and, not surprisingly, considering it’s a massive, polluting monstrosity right on a beautiful, public beach, they failed.

And you would think that would have been the end of the matter and the only problem left would be to get them to tear it down.

But sadly not. I am not an expert on Taiwan’s division of powers, but as it was explained to me by Pitek, and other people may know more about this as well, ultimate power in relation to government lands in Tai Dong resides with the Tai Dong county government. As they (led by Mayor Shyu) had signed a contract with the hotel conglomerates, Mei Li Hwa, and Naruwan for fifty years (at a ridiculously low rent of NT$10 000 per month for 7 acres of pristine beach!), they are now in a position where they would be liable for an enormous pay out (costs plus 50 years of profits) if they broke the contract (any legal experts out there?). There have been two further mayors since then (Kwan and now Huang) and the original Hotel Chain, Mei Li Hwa, has sold most of their share to their partners in crime, Naruwan. (I could use another source on this – as someone said, it’s hard to know where one company ends and another begins.) Pitek describes it as a ‘hot potato’. But still it goes on, and they are planning to open in time for summer vacation.

But the protest is still very much alive as well and it would be great if anyone out there in Forumosa Land could help bolster it and keep it going, whether that be by getting some media coverage for the cause, accessing some legal clout, writing a letter to Ma-Ing Jiu (or a Tai Dong councillor), just generally spreading the word, or if you are coming down this way, then definitely camp a night down at the beach. Why wouldn’t you? It’s free, it’s a beautiful tropical beach, and it could be the last time you’ll get to enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

1 Like

Good luck, mate. If I was out there I’d join you.

not back until early Aug, but will head down & support if it’s still going. Good luck. Perverse development, that it is.

to all west-coasters, this beach is lovely, one of the best on the island.
Well worth getting over there and spending a couple of days on sand and around Dulan/

Good luck, if I was in Taiwan, I would definitely help out. Any Donations needed? I would like Taiwan to still be beautiful by the time I got there. :wink:

I’ll put some time in. I will also provide a Giant Subway sandwich on Sunday, July 3rd.

Thanks for the support. It really is a critical battle-front for the future direction of development in Taiwan. I did ask about donations at the meeting last night but they seemed to think they were ok for the moment. However, some basic camping supplies (food, ice, water etc) wouldn’t go astray if you are passing through. The Giant Sub sounds good.

Been a slight change to the time of the performance. It is now on this Sat, July 2, starting at 4 pm (for the sake of the TV cameras) and kicking on into the night with a beach party.

Good luck!

You guys are fighting the good fight, so good luck. At least society seems to be on your side these days.

I’m hitching down to Taitung on the 9th so I’ll stop in on the 10th for sure!

Thanks for the support, and do drop in if you can. The news today was that the management of the hotel delivered a notice to the camp saying that they were trepassing on their property and that they need to take down their stuff or it will be torn down. Seems they are openly claiming now that the whole of the beach is their property. A response was discussed at the meeting tonight. You can see pictures on the facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.178535762202509.47655.178300302226055&l=54fc7c5d12

[quote=“dulan drift”]Thanks for the support, and do drop in if you can. The news today was that the management of the hotel delivered a notice to the camp saying that they were trepassing on their property and that they need to take down their stuff or it will be torn down. Seems they are openly claiming now that the whole of the beach is their property. A response was discussed at the meeting tonight. You can see pictures on the facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.178535762202509.47655.178300302226055&l=54fc7c5d12[/quote]
Hi, i wonder whether you perhaps could include a link to the original Chinese text in your initial post (edit it) and also the link you posted above. I’d like to link to your information from another site, but i don’t want people to have to go through the whole thread (discussion), because that will not be of interest to outsiders… thanks…

Dulan Drift -
Thanks for posting the FB pictures. It gives a good idea of the situation there.
Time for a reality check:
Honestly, if your groups intentions are to halt construction of the hotel(s), you’re fucked. Its way too late for that.

I did a small bit of checking into this and its already been green-lighted by money people. Both on Taiwan and with investors from the mainland.

Now the good (?) news:
IMO, and one other person, you’re best avenue is to work towards some kind of compromise in keeping the beach open for any and all users. You might also want to get a designated “end of construction” point on the beach. A marked point where any ‘permanent-type’ building, i.e. concrete foundation, is not allowed. Keep a clear zone for foot traffic and beach users.

It is possible that if you’re energies are moved towards finding and reaching a compromise that will keep the beach free for use by the general public, halt drainage towards and through the beach and stop any permanent building on the beach you may accomplish at least that much.

Time to make buddies with people who can help with what you want to ultimately do for the beach and its future.

Good Luck!.. :sunglasses:

Bastards. Already over-populated and polluted the hell out of their country, now they want to ruin ours? It’s at times like this I’m sorry we don’t have religious or other type extremists here who would go a little over the top with sabotage or something.

I’m assuming that the editorial by Tai Hsing-shen, Sad destruction of the east coast, in today’s Taipei Times is about the development? It does make one’s blood boil.

[quote]…On May 30, a meeting was called in Sansiantai Borough (三仙台) in Taitung County’s Chenggong Township (成功), at which local residents were told that an environmental impact assessment for a building project in the area had been completed and that construction work would start after one week. Stunned by the sudden announcement, local residents demanded that the departments responsible for the project hold a second public meeting to better explain what impact the project would have. However, the departments in charge said that there was no reason to hold another meeting and that they were not duty-bound to do so because the required procedures had already been completed.
Serious problems are evident in several aspects of this case.
The project development site is located in the famous Sansiantai scenic area. Although the area is well-known, most people are probably not aware that the east coast’s last remaining intact coral reef is just nearby. This is the most beautiful diving spot on the east coast and it is an important haven for marine resources that are shared by Aborigines and fishermen. …[/quote]

Is any of you guys in a position to put information like this on a website? Or is there such a website already?
If “no” to either question, i’ll donate NT$350 of my money and some of my time to set such a site up (PM me).

There is a general push to develop the shit out of the east coast. All these projects are part of the BOT. Not sure what that stands for, but basicaly it means all the government land along the east coast is up for grabs for private development. The one TK mentioned is a different case from what’s going on at Shan Yuan Beach, but would be part of the same BOT scheme. There are several others. That’s the thing - it’s not just this one isolated case - the entire coastline is governement land and all the best bits are being targeted by developers. You probably thought, ‘but didn’t we pay taxes to protect this land and build parks and what not’, but someone has had the brainwave of just pocketing that money and then on-leasing the land for a double scoop. I can just imagine the meeting where they came up with the idea.

[quote]Time for a reality check:
Honestly, if your groups intentions are to halt construction of the hotel(s), you’re fucked. Its way too late for that…you’re best avenue is to work towards some kind of compromise in keeping the beach open for any and all users. You might also want to get a designated “end of construction” point on the beach. A marked point where any ‘permanent-type’ building, i.e. concrete foundation, is not allowed. Keep a clear zone for foot traffic and beach users.[/quote]
You may well be right TC but we’re not throwing in the towell just yet. The Taidong council gave it the green light from the get-go, so nothing has changed there. However, the fact remains that it is an illegal development. The High Court in Kaohsiung declared it illegal. Can you even get more illegal than that? The Taidong council, which is allegedly a play thing of local gangsters (think of the cement contracts that would be floating around), are just ignoring it and going ahead. The vote was carried 12-1 (the ‘1’ did turn up at the camp for a few nights, and it was interesting to hear her stories). So the case is quite clear - what it needs is a large shot of people power bolstered by media coverage to put it on the political map and a bit of pressure on the National Government, who are probably the only ones who can override the Taidong Council. If someone will just stand up and enforce the law, the hotel will have to quit operating. But that, of course, is a lot easier said than done. There is not a huge environmental protest culture in Taiwan, and ultimately, their gambit of ‘let’s just build it illegaly and then we can sell it as a fait accompli’ is working brilliantly. A lot of people say that.
The other thing is what i mentioned above - it’s not just this one case.
As for negotiating about ‘end of construction points’ - yeah, they’d probably love that. Remember, these are the people who brought you the development in the first place - their moral integrity would be a big question mark for me in terms of coming to any agreement with them. Anyway, their posting of a notice that the camp is trespassing on their property (the camp is on the beach, not inside their fenced off area) shows that that they consider the whole bay to be theirs.

Do you think the protest will get someone to stand up and enforce the law or do you think that at the very least it will continue to bring attention to what must be an endemic problem in Taiwan?

How will you measure the success of the protest?

Where is the money coming from TC? I’ve heard that the Wen Jia (I think that’s it) bought the one five star hotel in Taidong and attached to that purchase was land for a second purchase right on the coast but slightly closer to Taidong city.

I’m generally an optimist about life these days Fox, so i do think that if pressure is brought to bear, then yeah, maybe Ma Ing-jiu will be shamed into doing something. Lots of letters have been written to him and his answer is always a non-answer - which at least shows some sense of ambivalence, i suppose.
Instead of more hotels, we’d like to see a few more national marine parks going, like other countries seem to have. When people say the ‘best things in life are free’ i usually think of (ok, sex, that’s pretty good value, but also) beaches. It’s not an anti-tourist thing at all, not even anti-development, but let’s give eco/indigenous tourism a burl - if it doesn’t work, ok, cement the whole place up and install a travelator direct from China, but give it a go first. I think it would work fine. It is working fine.
As for measuring the success, i think it’s about generating media, and internet exposure, and it’s a damn good case, so if that catches on, then a seismic shift (is it bad luck to even mention those words in Taiwan?) in general thinking about the environment here, which is quite spectacular as we all know, is definitely on the cards. But first things first.
I keep encouraging likely people to run for council as an independent, but it seems the best people for the job don’t want to do that job.

[quote=“dulan drift”]All these projects are part of the BOT. Not sure what that stands for. . . .[/quote] I think it stands for Build-Operate-Transfer. I don’t know anything about it, but here are a couple of paragraphs on it: investopedia.com/terms/b/botcontract.asp

Wikipedia has an article on it, too.