At the end of April 1996, hundreds of aborigine residents of Lanyu (Orchid) island, to the Southeast of Taiwan, kept a ship carrying nuclear waste to the island at bay. The protest was one in a long running battle between the aborigine Yami tribesmen and the Taiwan authorities, who are turning the island into a nuclear waste storage site.
The some 3,000 Yami still remaining on the island are well-known for their traditional fishing and farming lifestyle, which preserved much of the aborigine heritage of the islanders (see our report "The Yami of Orchid Island" in Taiwan Communiqué no. 67, August 1995).
Since they started to store nuclear waste from Taiwan's three existing nuclear power stations on the island in 1982, the Kuomintang authorities have stored some 94,000 barrels at the storage site, which will soon reach its capacity of some 100,000 barrels.
On May 19th, the day before the inauguration of Taiwan's first popularly-elected president, environmentalists planned to hold an anti-nuclear power sit-down protest in front of the presidential palace to call on President Lee to stop the construction of Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant only 24 miles to the north of the nation's capital.
Unfortunately the 150 demonstrators were outnumbered by more than 1000 policemen, who formed layers of human wall around them, and were prevented from leaving their meeting place, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial about half a mile from the presidential palace. The demonstration was organized by the Committee for a Referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which is the most active anti-nuclear group and previously has organized a march around Taiwan.
In an attempt to break the blockade, the protesters, wearing farmer's straw hats and white T-shirts emblazoned with anti-nuclear emblems, locked in arms and shoved against the human walls formed by policemen, armed with shields and batons. After four hours of stand-off, they were forced to call off the demonstration.
Another anti-nuclear demonstration led by the Taiwan Environment Protection Union was held in a northern coastal village, Wan-li, at the site of Taiwan's second nuclear power plant which has been in operation for years. More than 600 demonstrators mainly from Wanli and the neighboring villages of Chin-shan and Shih-men gathered to protest the storage of nuclear waste in the area. Wearing yellow headbands and holding placards they chanted "nuclear waste out of here."
Hundreds of policemen stood in front the gate of the power plant as a protecting shield to prevent the protesters from entering the plant. The demonstration ended after the director of the nuclear power plant and an official from the Taipower plant came out to accept a protest letter.
In a related development, Taiwan's legislature, the Legislative Yuan, on 24 May 1996 voted with a vote of 76 to 42 to halt construction of the controversial Fourth nuclear powerplant at Kungliao. In the vote, the opposition DPP and New Party aligned themselves against the ruling Kuomintang. The KMT has vowed to revive the project.
The Cabinet must now rule on the Legislative Yuan decision, but a cabinet veto could itself be overturned again by a two-thirds majority in the parliament. If that happens, Taiwan's laws require that the Prime Minister resigns.
The Legislative Yuan decision came as bidders from major foreign nuclear plant builders General Electric, Westinghouse, and Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) were in Taipei to submit bids for the construction of the plant.
The Fourth nuclear powerplant is controversial because it is located on Taiwan's Eastern seaboard, only 24 miles from the major metropolitan area of Taipei with its 4 million inhabitants. It is also situated near a major vault line, in an area known for its earthquakes.
Iciang Parod is a major leader of the Taiwanese aborigine movement. He was one of the leaders of the "Return our Land" movement (see Taiwan Communiqué no. 69, p. 22) He was imprisoned in November 1995, sentenced for organizing a demonstration in 1991 protesting the Kuomintang's policy of maintaining a Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (and spending millions of dollars trying to influence these groups) while neglecting the fate of the Taiwan aborigines.
Mr. Parod is presently serving his one year prison sentence in Kueishan prison near Taipei. He has been adopted as a `Prisoner of Conscience' by Amnesty International, and was recently visited in his Kueishan cell by a staff member of Amnesty International from Germany, Mr. Klaus H. Walter, who has been active for human rights in Taiwan since the late seventies.
Mr. Parod's state of health is - under the given circumstances - reasonable. He shares a very small cell with nine other prisoners, there are only four beds in the cell, six prisoners have to sleep on the floor. (Only when you are imprisoned over a long time in the same cell you can achieve the privilege of using one of the four beds). Like many other prisons in Taiwan, Kueishan is extremely overcrowded. With a capacity of approximately 4000 it houses more than 7000 men.
There is no wardrobe in the cell, the few belongings of the prisoners are kept on small shelves, a board of 12 inches long per inmate. The few clothes are kept on hangers on the wall. Iciang Parod will be allowed to ask for an early release in May and could be released during the month of June 1996 if his application will be granted.
In a meeting with Justice Minister Ma Ying-jeou on 8 March, Mr. Klaus Walter reiterated Amnesty International's concern for Iciang Parod. The Justice Minister replied that such an application will probably be granted due to "good behavior" of Iciang Parod.
Mr. Walter also visited three young men So Chieng-ho, Liu Ping-lang and Chuang Lin-hsiung on death row in Hsintien prison. All three were taken in in foot shackles and were very outspoken about the shortcomings in their trial, several TV station and many print media journalists were present at the meeting in the prison.
On 21 April 1996, the DPP ended decades long of KMT monopoly of power in the city of I-lan when DPP candidate Mr. Kuo Shih-nan won the by-election by defeating the KMT opponent Wu Pan-lung in a tight race. The news of Mr. Kuo's victory was welcomed with cheers at the headquarters of DPP in Taipei, and gave a boost to the morale of the party workers there after the setback in the March presidential election.
The by-election was held to fill the mayor seat left vacant after the former KMT mayor was elected to the Legislative Yuan last December. Mr. Kuo will serve the remaining term of one year and ten months until the end of 1997.
The mayoral race was fierce as both parties tried to drum up support among local voters by sending top-notch party officials to speak in public rallies. But the key to winning this election was a DPP strategy to crack down on the practice of vote-buying by KMT supporters. The DPP spread the news that hired private investigators were keeping a vigilant eye on would-be vote-buyers. The fact that there were no reports of vote-buying was evidence of the success of this strategy.
Mr. Kuo is no newcomer to I-lan politics. He came from a prominent local family, which has been involved in local and national politics for decades. Mr. Kuo's father, Mr. Kuo Yu-hsin, was a prominent politician, who served in the provincial assembly for 20 years and was a vocal critic of the KMT regime during the martial law era.
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