Saturday, August 31, 2013

The people versus the construction-industrial state

A candy maker in Tainan sculpts a goldfish.

The construction-industrial state cancer in Taiwan continues to metastasize, this time consuming a chunk of land belonging to the Thao people....
Performing a traditional exorcism ritual, a group of Thao Aborigines yesterday protested against a build-operate-transfer (BOT) resort project near Sun Moon Lake on Thao traditional lands, for which the government gave initial approval without consulting them.


The Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration Office and the Nantou County Government are planning to work with a developer to build a four-star resort hotel costing more than NT$2 billion (US$66 million) near the lake.

The project is financed by Hong Kong’s Bonds Group. If it goes ahead as planned, the resort will be completed and opened in 2017.
You can see how the law is abused by the government. In the Huaguang community case, the government used civil laws to fine recalcitrant residents in order to evict them from a plot of land a developer wanted. When it was criticized for this, government officials said they were acting in accordance with the law. In the Thao case, the government simply ignored its own laws and shook hands with Chinese money to occupy Thao land in defiance of the law. The courts can do nothing to intervene here, so the only recourse is protest. The EPA, a reliable shield for construction-industrial state expansion, approved the project this week as well.

The developer promised -- tragicomically -- to offer the Thao jobs as singers in the hotel. But we all know that any real jobs will go to the Han. Two colonial processes have joined hands to reinforce each other -- the flow of Chinese money to reshape Taiwan, and the ongoing process of Han settler occupation of aboriginal lands.

About the only good thing is that it is taking place in the already overbuilt Sun Moon Lake area, meaning that other, prettier, less developed areas are being ignored. For the moment. S&M Lake is acting like a sump, sucking up money that might be spread like poison over the mountains of central Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the construction-industrial state is receiving another challenge, this time from the newly-established Constitution 133 alliance, which seeks to recall incompetent legislators and send a message to Ma Ying-jeou. Article 133 of the Constitution specifies that elected officials may be recalled. The rules for recall are:
Recalling a legislator requires a minimum of 2 percent of the total electorate in the legislator’s electoral district to propose the recall bid for it to be legitimate. If the proposal is accepted, it must then be jointly petitioned by no less than 13 percent of the total electors. The motion then must receive votes from more than half of the total electorate, more than 50 percent of which have to support the recall if the motion is to pass.
Robin Winkler, the well-known Taiwanese lawyer, activist, and environmentalist, observed that the process will be unprecedented, regardless of its results. Neil Peng, the Alliance leader, is interviewed in the TT here. The Alliance has already named its first target, KMT legislator Wu Yu-sheng:
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) was yesterday named as the first candidate for a civic group’s recall campaign because of his consistent alignment with President and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) rather than with the public he is meant to serve, according to the group.
It seems like another one of those well-intentioned but essentially pointless quixotic moves so common after protests here. Construction-industrial state politicians are interchangeable and expendable; if Wu is knocked out, another will take his place. Wu Yu-sheng won his district (New Taipei City 1) 107,821 to 90,825 votes against the DPP candidate in 2012. Another 5,000 votes went to the New Party candidate (in 2008 Wu's margin was 26,000 votes). If Wu is knocked out -- highly unlikely -- the KMT will simply slot another similar politician into the district and the kind of public service we've come to know and love will continue.

In my view these celebs need to bend their fame and brains to the project of changing the way voters think about their legislators and how they vote for them. Recalling legislators will not send a signal to Ma, who obviously doesn't care, and who is fulfilling his assigned role of lightning rod for Taiwan's 1%. What is really needed is social change on a vast scale..... voters need to stop electing candidates who have been convicted of crimes or who are related to convicted criminals by marriage or descent, who attempt to buy their votes, who organize networks of neighbors and relatives to stump for them, and who pay off temples to stump for them. They need to stop wasting legislators time by demanding they and their assistants show up for funerals and weddings and traffic accidents and god knows what else. Surely at least some of these changes are possible to attain.....
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