I biked around Keelung city a bit last night, and took some night shots of the harbor and the town. Very photogenic place.
A photo of U in KEELUNG.
The city government has placed another massive KEELUNG sign on the waterfront, in case incoming tourists miss the giant white KEELUNG letters above the train station, or the two large signs that say KEELUNG on the local harbor administrative buildings. The waterfront has actually improved as the harbor is being slowly converted from a working shipbuilding and cargo port to a cruise ship port. One shudders to think how development will wreck the atmosphere of the town... See it now, before it sprouts kitsch dinosaurs everywhere....
Speaking of kitsch development, tomorrow the Penghu islanders vote on casinos. Taiwan News has another of its awesome editorials that lays out how the vote is constructed to achieve a certain outcome that will be beneficial to the construction-industrial state....
Voters in Yunlin and Penghu County will make choices Saturday that will reverberate beyond the boundaries of their home districts Saturday revolving on the common theme of the influence of money in Taiwan politics. The over-72,000 eligible voters in Penghu County will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on the question of "Should Penghu host international-calibre hotels with gaming facilities?"TN goes on to observe that the KMT built an impossibly high barrier to the passage of the referendum with the infamous "double majority" law that requires that the vote consist of a majority with at least 50% of voters having voted. What they did was cheat: in January the KMT rammed through a clause in the offshore gambling statute deleting the requirement that 50% of voters must vote in the referendum for it be valid. An article on it in Gambling Compliance describes:
The question as posed is both prejudicial with its reference to "international-calibre" and deceptive in its avoidance of what is really at stake, which does not concern "hotels" but gambling casinos.
The proposal is backed by KMT administration, whose Tourism Bureau is already reviewing bids for the planning of so-called "integrated resorts." DPP, social welfare organizations, environmental groups, Taiwan-centric cultural activists and even Control Yuan President Wang Chien-hsien have called on residents to reject the scheme for the sake of the sustainable development of Penghu's unique cultural and ecological resources.
But the amended law only requires that more than half of the voter turnout vote yea for the referendum to pass - a much lower threshold than that stipulated in Taiwan's Referendum Act. That law requires that at least half of all eligible voters participate in a plebiscite, with more than half of that turnout voting yea for it to pass.TN then describes the numbing claims....
Passage of Penghu's referendum, however, requires only approval from more than half of voter turnout, regardless of the turnout rate.
“In other words, three people could vote, and if two vote yea, this thing will pass,” said Yeh Chih-kuei, a professor of sports and leisure studies at National Dong Hwa University and a casino critic.
But besides the low referendum threshold, critics have also slammed the KMT-led government for an alleged lack of research into the “social costs” of casinos.
“There's been no comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of casino gambling [by Taiwan] to date,” said Timothy Kelly, executive director of the U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission, a congressional research group that produced a 1999 report on the social and economic impacts of legalised gambling.
Boosters have freely made outlandish claims that the casinos would "save" Penghu by bringing in over five million tourists to Penghu alone, compared to 1.8 million for all of Taiwan last year, and generate 25,000 jobs, even though all of Las Vegas has only 8,500 jobs directly related to gambling.Nor has the debate mentioned the fact that once the casinos are in, they will run local politics, it says. The piece continues...
The KMT Penghu County government also took a hand by declining to invite casino referendum opponents to speak in many of the public debates held in villages and neighborhoods, while senior KMT government officials have moved to suppressing any dissent in official circles. For example, statements during public hearings of opposition by a prosecutor in Penghu to the gambling plan was slammed as "inappropriate" by Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng, who evidently feels it is proper for prosecutors to trample on judicial human rights by penning and acting in skits mocking defendants in active cases, but "improper" to speak out, after hours, against gambling casinos.The Ma government has been strongly supported by global finance and banking groups, and the casino industry is no exception. According to reports I have seen, gaming industry experts and insiders say that the president himself is a key supporter of gambling in the Penghu.
Coincidentally, young Penghu voters who want to return hope to cast "no" ballots report that all flights back to Penghu on Friday and Saturday have been fully booked.
Interestingly, the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) has dragged its feet. The first MOTC tender was only worth US$150,000, and it was buried in an untranslated tender notice to discourage overseas bidders. MOTC says it does not have gaming expertise, and that the casino framework should be up and running after 2010.
David Reid of the well known blog David on Formosa blogged on his experiences with opposing the referendum, which is expected to pass with no trouble. David offers a first hand account of the pro-gambling stance of the government outlined in the Taiwan News piece:
The visit to Penghu was timed to coincide with the public hearing. This hearing was required as part of the referendum. Despite the name it wasn’t open to the public. Instead it was broadcast on television. Whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable. Professor Yeh, who was one of the speakers for the against side, said that in past public meetings he had been shouted down and a disproportionate amount of time was given to proponents of the casino. The public hearing this time allocated three speakers from each side ten minutes each to make their case. (If you search for “澎湖地方性公民投票案” on YouTube you can watch the speeches of all six people).Just as an example of what's happening, AMZ Holdings, a property development firm, holds the largest single plot of land in the Penghu, a 27 acre property that it hopes to develop into a gaming resort. Their website about it is here. This discussion of the value of the firm notes that the land is worth $46 million even without the resort, and that the acreage was assembled by purchases from over 280 landowners over eight years. That's $46 million dollars of irresistible pressure on local governments... another news report says that Lawrence Ho, the son of Macau kingpin Stanley Ho, is looking to expand into the Penghu if the Beijing government gives the ok signal.
Some other issues of concern raised during the time on Penghu were the local media’s coverage of the casino issue. Both of Penghu’s newspapers have given a large amount of coverage to arguments in favor of the casino while arguments against have been ignored. The Anti-gambling Alliance had also been denied a permit to hold a rally on the eve of the referendum.
There's not much to say, except visit the Penghu now, because we can kiss everything that makes them wonderful good-bye within a few years....
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!