Taidong Protest

I didn’t see any information on here about the Taidong protest which I’m following online. It is the march to Taipei against the hotel, which was illegally built as the Miramar Resort Village in Taitung County’s Shanyuan Beach (杉原沙灘). I did see a pro hotel article in the paper. The hotel is a monstrosity built right on the beach. It gives ownership of a public beach to a hotel that failed its EPA approval process but was built anyway. The highest court in the land has said it should be torn down, but this has been ignored and manipulated using the tried and true policy of build it and they will bugger off. I remember the beach when it was pristine. I don’t think any of the protesters appose development but they do appose inappropriate development that simply favors some over others – robbing all in favor of a few so that vertically integrated bandit tour operators can exploit Taiwan’s most beautiful unspoiled beach by abasing it for bucks.

What it should be like:

What the protesters look like:

The Taidong protest is up to Day 6 of the march:

[quote]Day 6: Woke up in the cheap hotel (actually, that doesn’t even begin to describe it) and in the end, it kind of served its purpose. I could still faintly hear Da Fang snoring in the next room but not at a disturbing level and slept well. Until 5 am when we had to get up. The daily special on the breakfast menu was ‘Gruel’. Otherwise known as Congee. Not my favourite Chinese food.
Then, with Long Ge setting a cracking pace up the mountain as we headed inland to cross over to the rift valley. At the top we were met by the Taibalang tribe. On approach we could hear singing and tradition demands we sing a tribal song as well until we met up and the mountains rang with the symphony of Amis music. On arrival we needed to step over a threshold which was two long reeds tied together which meant that we brought good into the village and left all the bad behind.
Luckily, ‘bad’ didn’t include a couple of shots of mijiu and some betel nut. From there we walked down the mountain which is somehow just as hard as walking up and arrived at the home of one of the tribe (thanks Gilu!) and sat down to a feast of food and music led by A-dao.
In the afternoon we went to a local gathering place where several people spoke with the focus mainly on aboriginal land rights.

Image from Aboriginal Museum Taipei:

The march continues:

The protesters are meeting up with local villages along the way to share their experiences of change and development in Taiwan.

It’s a worry when “foreigners”, though a minority, make up a large chunk of the “protesters” in the picture above. Sorry, but it’s Taiwan. No-one cares.

I don’t think it is fair to say Taiwanese don’t care. That has not been my experience of this issue. It might not be a high priority item among the many survival issues that exist in Taiwan from natural disasters to educating your kids. The march is about awareness and consciousness raising on a very important environmental issue --development on the Hua-Dong Coast. It doesn’t mean people don’t care not at all. i think that statement is imbued with quite a bit of prejudice or you may prefer cultural relativism.

Every movement needs leaders and doers. That’s why I think this protest march is important, it keeps the issue alive and shows people its okay to fight back against corrupt government and big business interests. It’s also linking communities as they go in a very real way, which I think is very cool. United we stand, divided we fall.

It should be known that foreigners have always been involved in change in Taiwan. The KMT were mostly foreigners aswell. There were foreigners helping the DPP from the start and involved in human rights here for decades.

In my home country it was the foreign residents who first raised a green consciousness decades ago. Running organic farms and making their own cheese and recycling everything. They were thought of as strange then but would be normal now.

[quote=“headhonchoII”]Every movement needs leaders and doers. That’s why I think this protest march is important, it keeps the issue alive and shows people its okay to fight back against corrupt government and big business interests. It’s also linking communities as they go in a very real way, which I think is very cool. United we stand, divided we fall.

It should be known that foreigners have always been involved in change in Taiwan. The KMT were mostly foreigners aswell. There were foreigners helping the DPP from the start and involved in human rights here for decades.

In my home country it was the foreign residents who first raised a green consciousness decades ago. Running organic farms and making their own cheese and recycling everything. They were thought of as strange then but would be normal now.[/quote]

My very first job in Taiwan was for the Chinese Association of Human Rights.

Things to live for, Dulan:

Extract from the Taipei Times on the Issue:

In addition to the threat of unbridled development, Yuang says the hotel threatens fragile marine systems.
“They just built directly on the sand which created lots of waste on the beach,” she said.
Since 2009, the TEIA has been studying the health of the bay’s eco-systems with the organization’s director Sun Hsiu-ju (孫秀如) stating: “Many coral reefs have been contaminated with dirt and sand.” The group also alleges that heavy-metal contaminants have been released as a result of the burning of construction waste.
In the beachside gardens backing onto the hotel’s temporary offices the team of public relations officers who have flown down from the resort’s Taipei base for the interview explain that the hotel group has always followed the rules.
“In December last year they had an important meeting at the Taitung government where we obtained their approval, so now we must let time tell because we made promises in our plans … and we have gained the support of many local people,” explains Heather Lin (林函潔).
Lin is also dismissive of the protesters and says they are largely from out of town and are simply following their own agenda. “You can see most of the protesters are from Taipei … but in Taipei they can’t see that we haven’t polluted the ocean.”
Tiger Ho (何金坤), the resort’s general manager, agrees and says the hotel has strived to reach the highest standards in terms of protecting the local environment.
“The coast is really special, and because there are no such large-scale hotels we want to invest more. We can solve the various issues raised by the protesters … The Miramar Hotel has invested a lot in environmental protection and we want our reputation to be based on the standard we set.”
Ho says that water filtration systems at the hotel are world class. He adds that hotel guests will be allowed to view the water cleaning operation for themselves.
Turning his attention to the increasingly well-known beachside town of Kenting in Pingtung County, Ho says times have changed.
“We are not modeling ourselves on Kenting … Kenting has been a big success but there are also issues there like pollution … We want to live in harmony with the beach because if you pollute it then people won’t come here.”
Fellow Miramar Hotel employee Jeffrey Chiu (邱聰得) chips in: “Kenting built the majority of its hotels 20 years ago and at that time Taiwan did not really have rules in place about how to best protect the ocean or the beach. But the Miramar Resort is a new hotel, so the government had to be really careful about that and to take those laws seriously.”
Once a small town located on Taiwan’s southernmost tip, Kenting has continued to witness tremendous growth. Aided in part by the ease of transport, the tourism hot spot is often cited as the end result of open-ended development. A 186-room hotel is situated slap in the middle of Kenting National Park and there are dozens more hotel complexes along the coastline.
Robert Storey, the veteran travel writer who penned the first Lonely Planet guide to Taiwan in 1985, has seen many changes to the region.
“The obvious fact is that these high-rise buildings are real eyesores, and constructing too many of them may well drive off the tourists who always have the option of going somewhere else,” said the 32-year resident of Taiwan — 16 of them spent in Taitung.
“The second reason these mega-hotels may not be so great for the economy is that they are hurting the currently booming business of home-stays which have sprung up all over Taiwan,” Storey said.
Storey, who lives near Luye and who describes himself as a “mountain person,” says that the risk of hotels spreading out across Taitung is very real.
“This issue affects many other places far removed from the east coast beaches. High-rise hotels are popping up in many scenic areas, not just on the coast.”
Miramar Resort Village remains a touchstone for the nature and size of future development in Taitung. For Ho the potential to fortify the local economy is unrivaled.
“We need to talk about confidence,” Ho said. “There are seven hotels of varying size in the pipeline and they are waiting for the Mirimar to open. If it does open then they will press ahead with their plans. This is the confidence I am talking about. Our vision is that if we open we can bring employment opportunities to Taitung. If the Miramar opens — as well as the seven other hotels — they will collectively bring at least 3,200 jobs to the region.”
Further up the coast, Australian Michael O’Neill, 49, a 17-year resident of Taiwan who works as a driftwood craftsman and chicken farmer, says the financial boost the hotel promises is questionable.
“Jobs are cited, but the existing hotels are struggling to fill vacancies. I don’t see how they’ll get the staff without bringing them in from Taipei.”
O’Neill says that instead of the major hotel model, small businesses should be encouraged to cater for the growing numbers of independent holiday-makers.
“Efforts to bolster ecotourism through small business courses for local residents would do far more to enhance Taitung’s economic development than the building of several large hotels … There are more and more backpackers every day and they are not here because its overdeveloped. They’re here because it is still beautiful. Once the hotel is open, the beauty, the uniqueness of that space is gone.”
The TEIA’s Da Yuang echoes the sentiment. “If Taitung goes in the same direction as Kenting with lots of tourists on big buses it will push some people away such as backpackers … who come for the natural environment.”
The campaigner remains defiant. “The local government has said [the hotel] can open but we will still fight it through legal channels and through campaigning. We will tell people not to stay at the hotel and why, and let them know that this is wrong.”
Inside the hotel’s half-finished lobby a handful of security guards meander about nonchalantly — footprints mark their way through a thick layer of dust that covers nearly everything within the cavernous space. Hundreds of toilets are stacked in a corner and there is a heavy, eery-feeling as the Taitung sunshine struggles to break through the vast sand and sea-salt encrusted windows. There is something of the Mary Celeste about the place — a space very much in limbo.
For all the talk of picture-perfect vacations for holiday-making newlyweds and joyous beachside breaks for sports-loving tourists, the Miramar Resort Village does not exude an atmosphere of happiness. The on-going threat of further legal complications and a nationwide boycott in the offing only seems to add to the woes of this mothballed giant. It may be here that the future of Taitung is decided, but right now it feels very much trapped in the past.[/quote]

More of Taitung’s beauty:

Versus Kenting:

Beware the

The hotel started construction about ten years ago. It’s nonsense that environmental thinking was so advanced then. I have seen plenty of overdevelopment in the past ten years in places that were largely untouched. Look at Beitou, Danshui, Sanxia. Look at the various hot spring villages such Guanziling. Look at Maolin where they once again tore down prime butterfly habitat to build a parking lot so people can park when they go and see…the butterflies.

Also the notion that that orange monstronsity is anything but an nod to old thinking is risible. It’s designed and colored to STAND OUT, to glaringly stand out so everyone can see it. That is the exact opposite of what eco-friendly stands for.

It’s not that Taidong shouldn’t develop, but it is the nature of that development. It could become a place of massage clinics, day spas, secluded getaways, cultural reflection, etc. or a wham-bam thank-you mam hookersville. There is plenty of money in both but one takes vision, subtlety, and patience and the other is more snatch and grab with grubby hands.

Of course, but the problem is that the numbers are so massively skewed. How many cyclists, surfers, hot spring afficionados, and general sightseers will come compared to tour groups from China who don’t care about anything except saying they have been to Taiwan? How much can moneyed people get off the former as compared to the latter?

This is all about profit for a few people.

You can see also the big shift in tourism policy since Ma got in power. There are so few places now that have English speakers, training for them in pathetic, and I have more than once been snubbed at visitor centres when a group of Chinese is about.

Around 2008-09 there was a big push in promoting the east coast for cycling. They completely dropped the ball on that except for bullshit little cycling routes around towns where Giant bicycles runs the main bike rental shops.

Now there is a push for surfing in the Donghe area. Probably because that area otherwise attracts no tourists so there is no threat to bigger interests. But I wonder if it will go beyond a few years.

That said there is an obvious push to make the east a better place. It is cleaner than ever and many small villages have been tidied up with new paint jobs and facades on buildings. I like also the way Hwy 9 has been diverted around some of the bigger towns and villages so that you ride uninterupted through the rice fields. It’s a really beautiful ride now.

I guess the point is if there is a remote virtually untouched part of Taiwan it would be that area. It is an opportunity to create truly world class tourism. There is no landscape more beautiful virtually anywhere in the world. It rivals the Amalfi Drive in Italy. It simply requires good conservative government not a hand over to the Wan family trust. Promoting Chinese tourism may make some company in Hong Kong better off, but how much of it will truly benefit the local economy and at what price. They will take paradise and put up a parking lot. Of that, you can be certain.

I agree. It is a stunning and unique part of the world. It could provide sustainable employment and small business opportunities for generations to come or it could be a quick 5-10 year profit for some until the tourists get bored and go somewhere fresh, leaving the coast with a blighted landscape.

Ah, that we should agree on one thing: ‘The weakest kind of fruit drops earliest to the ground’ Bill. Hopefully we don’t have to eat anymore of it and development ideas will change. It has happened elsewhere in the world.

A typical Taidong Day:

Beware the forces of evil:

Day 11: Today we were joined by the famous writer Wu Sian for was a leisurely 15k. A walk in the park. Unfortunately that happened to be an industrial park for the first half, and it was nice to emerge out of there and see the east coast again. Or the glimpses of that you could get between the rampant development that has taken place there in the last 10 years. With the view of Turtle Island and its famous surf break, this is a jewel in the crown of Taiwan’s national treasures. But the exact thing we are fighting in Taidong, you can see it happening here. Huge resorts walling off the coast. Metre by metre. With huge foreboding walls. Taiwan is a small island nation – it’s not a big stretch to imagine a day when the whole coast has been walled off. If you want to see it, pay to stay at a resort. They can call it the Great Wall of Taiwan. Sponsored by companies like Durban Developments. We met a group of concerned residents that were protesting a new piece of ‘wall’ along the coast and that’s exactly what this is all about. Listening to people, uniting, and together joining in action to do something about it. We met this very Taiwanese guy called Wei Bao Ching who was stubbornly refusing to sell out his low-rise house on the coast to the conglomerates. Pretty much the last holdout on that section of the coast.
They guy treated us for lunch, and it was something a bit different. He paid the local temple to put on an amazing spread in Wai Ao at Ching Tian Gong Temple, replete with lively taxi cab music, a huge projection of daoist dancers and that wonderful Taiwanese hospitality where he was repeatedly urging us to eat more. We’ve seen the aboriginal hospitality and I think it’s no coincidence that general Taiwanese hospitality is also unbelievable.

In the afternoon we walked to Daxi where we’ve totally lucked out and are camping at the Elementary School overlooking the beautiful Honeymoon Bay, one of the most famous surf spots in Taiwan. Unlike the area just to the south, this hasn’t yet fallen into the hands of the development conglomerates (ownerships of which are routinely entwined), yet. But as we learned today, plans are afoot.
While the rest of us are kicking back in the evenings and exploring the extra capacity that being fit gives you for smoking and drinking, Ba Nai and Ai Ching are busy working out the details of the upcoming concert on April 20 and you can see them on their cellphones up to 11pm.

When skies darken:

Do not despair:

Fight back. It’s fun.

Good News. Just been announced that Matzka will be playing at the concert.

Here is the protest in pictures and video. It was a moving if not very wet day. Congratulations to those that walked from Taidong to Taipei, quite simply amazing.

Have Patience and they will please.


Taidong Protest.

[quote]Good news! The High Court has (yet again) ordered work to cease at the Miramar Resort.

An injunction has been issued pending the result of a writ brought by the gun lawyer representing conservation groups, 詹順貴, regarding the legality of the controversial Dec 22 EIA, which was widely condemned as a sham at the time.

The judge also blasted the Taidong Council while he was at it for their subsequent prevarication and recalcitrant disregard for the rule of law. Basically he said, ‘Who the bloody hell do you think you are to be ignoring the rulings of the Supreme Court? Stop it. Now. Do not pass ‘go’ and do not collect $20 000 000.’[/quote]