With the sound of that train wreck that is the US election crescendoing across the Pacific, it's always fun to explore what our unbiased international media is feeding us. Reuters reports on the crushing defeat of casino gambling in the Penghu referendum on Saturday...
Taiwanese residents in Penghu on Saturday shut the door to casino development in a referendum that proponents had said would bring jobs to the isolated, tiny, offshore archipelago. [no presention of case of opponents of gambling]
The referendum to allow gaming, open only to residents of the outlying county just west of the main Taiwan island, was opposed to by the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). [...just so you know that the DPP is opposed to "development"]
"The focus is not gaming, it is our dissatisfaction. We have a small population, few votes, no influence," a voter who gave his surname as Hsiao told Reuters. [no comments from opponents provided. No explanation of why the referendum was defeated is ever given, let alone why it was defeated so crushingly]
The concerns of Penghu, with a population of around 100,000 against the 23 million national total, are part of the bigger economic divide that has seen Taiwan's second-tier cities and its offshore counties lag in resources and development compared to the wealthier metropolis areas of the north, including the capital Taipei. [no mention that this divide is the result of the deliberate policies of the former ruling party, the KMT, nor that the DPP has pledged to address this divide. Why is this paragraph here and not further reporting on the casino referendum and gambling in Taiwan? The answer is below...]
Last month, local government officials representing eight Taiwanese cities and counties, mainly ruled by the opposition China-friendly Nationalists, visited China and met with its top Taiwan policymaker in a bid to continue economic and cultural exchanges.[We segue directly to the local official kowtow to Beijing... what on earth do these visits have to do with a casino gambling referendum in the Penghu...? Nothing at all! Their inclusion, rather than more robust and detailed reporting on gambling in Taiwan, shows how the piece attempts to be a hit piece on the Tsai Administration. Gambling in Penghu was/is a long-term plan unrelated to this recent event.]
.....If anyone wants information on the referendum, consider Matt Fulco's report in Nikkei Asian Review:
China has frozen official communication with Taiwan since President and DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen took power in May because she refuses to acknowledge the "one China" principle, agreed to with the previous China-friendly Nationalists that allows both sides to interpret who rules a single China that includes Taiwan.[a plain error, Beijing has never agreed to that -- the "two interpretations" claim is merely KMT propaganda, and one the ruling party has been debating. However, 1C2I has become a Media Fact, existing only in the media bubble world, and there is no stopping its constant repetition, like so many Hail Marys on the geopolitical rosary.]
China deems Taiwan a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary and deeply distrusts the DPP, which traditionally advocates independence.[Look how far we have strayed from gambling, into geopolitics, though no concrete connection to the Penghu was ever offered -- now we are told that China distrusts the DPP -- of course never how Taiwan feels about the CCP, though there is copious polling on many angles of that. But why are we even given this information?]
Yan plans to vote "no." In his view: "Casino resorts will drive up land prices, making housing unaffordable for many residents. Besides, most people in Penghu can get by on their earnings from the high season and tourism has been growing."Those three sentences contain more useful information than the entire Reuters report. The Taipei Times report, which notes that gaming legislation would not have passed the legislature, observes:
Chen Kuang-fu [Penghu county chief] said the county is moving forward and he hopes the central government would amend flaws in the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例), which he said is an ongoing point of contention between Taipei and the local government that arises every three years to the detriment of the county.The China Post report is actually clearer: Chen was complaining that because changes to the Offshore Islands Development Act were made to enable the gambling referendum, every three years there is a divisive vote on the issue that is bad for public unity. The gaming industry's local promoters have promised not to have another referendum in three years' time.
It is also important to note that the groups behind these projects are the same groups that at various times have pushed for the Penghu to become some kind of cross-strait transshipment center for people and goods, and similar. China has indicated that it will not tolerate a Taiwan-based competitor to Macao, so this casino would have been aimed at other tourists, though most likely it would have become just another heavily subsidized way for elites to transfer wealth from Taiwanese to themselves.
In 2009 I observed, fearing that the gambling would pass...
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.Despite savage repression of anti-gambling arguments in the media and in public meetings by the local government and KMT officialdom, that referendum was shockingly defeated. Looking back, that may have been the inflection point in growing opposition to the KMT by social movements and their supporters.
Thanks, Penghu, for that vote, and for this one.
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