Taiwan Communiqué No. 74, February 1997

Environmental / Aborigine report

Taiwan to send nuclear waste to North Korea

In mid-January 1997, the state-owned Taiwanese power company Taipower signed a contract with North Korea to transport 60,000 barrels of low-level nuclear waste to North Korea over the next two years for storage. Under the contract, Taipower has the option of shipping up to 140,000 additional barrels in subsequent years. According to press reports in Taipei the deal is worth US$ 70 million.

During the past years, Taipower has stored the low-level waste at Orchid Island, but this has been met by strong opposition from both Taiwan's increasingly vocal environmental movement and from the Yami tribe which inhabits Orchid Island (see our report "The Yami of Orchid Island", in Taiwan Communiqué no. 67, pp. 20-23).

The Orchid island site is virtually filled to its capacity of 100,000 barrels, and Taipower has looked for alternatives to store the waste. Discussions were held with both Russia and the Marshall Islands, and according to The Economist, there were some intriguing ideas to use Matsu ("Dump and be damned", 18 January 1997). However, none of the options materialized.

The proposed deal drew a protest from South Korea, which urged Taipower to call off the planned shipments. However, Taiwan officials still smarting from South Korea's 1992 shift in diplomatic relations to Beijing turned a deaf ear, arguing that South Korea's own nuclear plants produce much more waste.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: While the plan to ship the waste to North Korea spells relief to the Yami people on Orchid Island, it does not present a long-term solution to Taiwan's nuclear waste problems. The best solution would be to gradually close the existing nuclear power plants and stop the plans for the Fourth Nuclear Reactor. Taiwan can provide for its energy needs adequately if it:

  1. institutes an aggressive energy conservation program. Presently, much energy is wasted through inefficiencies and the lack of energy-conservation awareness among the population. The experience in countries such as The Netherlands shows that energy needs can be reduced by as much as 20 percent.
  2. uses advanced conventional power generating technology, such as clean coal, advanced turbines, etc. Many of these technologies are available and applied in the US and Western Europe.
  3. initiates a program to utilize alternative energy sources, solar, wind, fuel-cells and hydro-electric power.

Aborigines angered by "Aboriginal Council" law

Adapted from the Occasional Bulletin of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, published in Tainan, December 1996.

The recent passage of an "Aboriginal Council" bill and the subsequent setting up of a puppet "Aboriginal Council" in the Executive Yuan have evoked widespread anger among Taiwan's indigenous tribes. Many claim that the bill took away what little rights they had, and made way for the sell-out of their lands to non-aborigines, most of whom are already occupying the land illegally, without the consent of the aboriginal owners.

In a meeting held soon after the passage of the bill, the Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines, the Union of Aboriginal Laborers, and the Aboriginal Christian University Student Center got together to examine the bill and its possible effects on the future of the aboriginal tribes. The three groups found that the bill contained numerous disadvantages for the aborigines, and that it had been drastically changed from the original version.

Reverend Mayau Komod, a Presbyterian Church minister and an aboriginal leader who was imprisoned for eight months for his activities in the aboriginal rights movement (see Taiwan Communiqué no. 69, January 1996) commented: "If we had known the price we had to pay in order to have an aboriginal council, [we probably would not have one], but prefer to keep things the way they are, bad as they are."

Another aboriginal activist, Iciang Parod, a veteran of one year's jail sentence (see Taiwan Communiqué no. 72, June 1996) sadly commented: "according to the version of the bill passed recently, the Aboriginal Council has so little power over the affairs of aborigines, that it is even less significant than the Council for Cultural Development (famous for its ineffectiveness)." Parod said that the current form of the Aboriginal Council merely allows a few aboriginal politicians to have some titles and easy jobs, at the cost of the aborigines' land and dignity.


In Memory of Ms. Peng Wan-ru

Mrs. Peng Wan-Ru, a long-time activist in Taiwan's feminist movement and the director of the Women's Division of the Democratic Progressive Party, was raped then killed on 1 December 1996. This killing was not only a despicable crime but also a cruel reminder that violence against women is very much an issue in Taiwan.

Peng's death is a heartbreaking loss; the pain, sorrows, and anger of losing her to such a ruthless crime are widely shared. As fellow believers in gender equality and social justice, we feel compelled not to let her death become a mere addition to Taiwan's crime statistics. She should not die in vain, and the beliefs to which she had committed her life shall live on. Peng was known to be a fighter.

Ms. Peng had been a most ardent advocate of women's causes in Taiwan. Before she was invited to head the department of women's affairs in the DPP, she had been in the forefront of women's movement. She held many key positions in women's organizations to promote equal rights for women, and the rights of divorced women. She taught a women's studies course at a university in Taichung and translated many English-language books on feminism.

In memory of her untimely death and her efforts in advancing women's right in Taiwan, a group of activists proposed the establishment of the Women's Right Day on the last Sunday of every November. It was on the last Sunday of this past November she was last seen alive, and she spent the whole day making a better future for women in Taiwan. The Women's Right Day will be a day not only for remembering her and all the female victims of violence, but a day to show solidarity in the fight for social, political, and legal reforms to achieve gender equality in Taiwan.

The memorial service for Peng Wan-Ru was held in late December 1996. She is survived by her husband, Mr. Hung Wan-sheng, a mathematics professor of National Normal University and a teenage son.

Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan

According to recent press reports in Taiwan, the Dalai Lama has been invited by a Buddhist organization in Taiwan to visit the island in March 1997. However, it is unsure, under what conditions he might visit: as a religious leader or as a leader of the Tibetans in exile. According to initial reports he would limit his activities to visiting temples, but a January 21st AFP report from New Delhi stated that the Dalai Lama's office had stated that he will not visit Taiwan unless the KMT authorities stop regarding Tibet as a part of China. "Unless this problem is resolved, a visit will not be possible," bureau spokesman Jampel Chasang told AFP.

The Kuomintang authorities still cling to the outdated position that Tibet is part of their so-called "Republic of China" and maintain an anachronistic "Tibetan and Mongolian Affairs Commission" which spends millions of dollars annually in trying to buy the support of Tibetans and Mongolians for the KMT's lost cause. Dalai Lama spokesman Chasang said there has been no change in the Dalai Lama's perception of Taiwan. "If Taiwan gives in writing that they will change their opinion (about the status of Tibet), then the Dalai Lama may visit," Chasang said.

The Chinese in Beijing reacted in their usual paranoid fashion to the reports of the Dalai Lama's possible visit. Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang stated that: "...the Dalai Lama is not simply a religious person, but a separatist who carries his separatist message on the international scene under the guise of religion."

Taiwan Communiqué comment: A visit of the Dalai Lama to Taiwan would be a welcome development. It would improve the contacts between the Taiwanese and the Tibetans, and would enhance the understanding for each other's cause. However, he should be free to visit temples and political organizations, and meet with religious and political leaders alike. Anything short of that would amount to giving in to China's bullying.

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