Friday, July 02, 2010

Cultural Survival on Taiwan's Orchid Island

I'd just like to point to this awesome piece by Linda Gail Arrigo, with Si Jilgilan (Huang Ching-Wen) and Si Maraos (Chung Chi-Fu) on the Tao of Orchid Island, the nuclear issue, the confrontation with KMT marginalization and political control, and resistance and recolonization. A fascinating piece....
Since the opening of tourist travel to the island in 1971 and increased freedom of speech in the late 1980s, Taipower and the military installations remaining on the island have resorted to the buy-off tactics common in governmental and commercial dealings with environmental movements in Taiwan. Bribes have been dispersed from the government in the form of compensation for the salted-cement housing, and from Taipower in the form of land rents and “community compensation” or “appreciation” (hui kuei jin) for the onus of the nuclear waste site. Both have brought community and environmental disaster.

The compensation programs that began eight years ago placed large sums of money in the hands of local government administrators, creating unprecedented opportunities for skimming if those elected locally cooperated with the ruling KMT and Taipower. The Orchid Island community compensation amounts to about NT$90 million (US$2.5 million) annually (1), a sum supposedly slated for 60 percent medical welfare, 30 percent education, and 10 percent infrastructure.

As is the case elsewhere in Taiwan, the indigenous people, especially those in remote areas, are already dependent on and subject to control by the penetrating structure of the KMT, which for many decades held sway over their land rights and handed out patronage jobs in local government and in police and military forces. Community compensation exacerbates the problem. And the structure buys the vote at election time, perpetuating itself. Because of the corruption, a monumental amount of cement has been poured on the island in recent years. One major project paved the road ringing the island, but in addition to the road surface, a foot-high concrete wall was built on both sides of the road to keep the pigs out of the way of vehicles. (Wildlife experts warn that the wall may also block the spawning migrations of land crabs, traditionally a prized food source.)
Read the whole thing: it is long, detailed, and well worth the time invested.
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