Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Landed Gentlemen

Southern Taiwan is getting gobsmacked by rain recently. Some places are as hard-hit as they were during Morakot last year, but since the disaster is unfolding more slowly....

Another pan-Blue politician goes down on a (pathetic) charge of vote bribery -- US$431 expenditure. The 2007 election was annulled.

Speaking of pan-Blue corruption, the County Chief of Miaoli came under fire again over land issues. Taiwan News reports:
Liu came under fire recently for sending in excavators destroying rice fields in order to seize land from farmers for the expansion of the Chunan Science Park. The dispute, which dragged on for weeks, led to the central government stepping in under public pressure and promising farmers they would receive another 5 hectares of land to work on.

Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers said Tuesday that Liu had succeeded in paying off NT$50 million (US$1.5 million) in debt within two years after being elected chief of Miaoli County. They said that plots of land he owned for a total value of NT$20 million (US$625,000) later turned out to be worth NT$90 million (US$2.8 million). The transaction amounted to “exchanging a bicycle for a Ferrari,” said DPP caucus whip Kuan Bi-ling.

DPP lawmaker Su Chen-ching called on prosecutors to investigate the deals and check the flow of funds as soon as possible because there were strong suspicions of money laundering, tax evasion and land speculation.

The March 2007 transaction was also allegedly timed to coincide with the announcement that the area was destined for the building of the Miaoli High Speed Rail station. In addition, the deal also involved the sale of the land by Liu to his son before a third party paid a much higher price, Su said. As a result, there was a question of whether Liu had paid the necessary inheritance and gift taxes, the lawmaker said.

Liu said he repaid his debts by selling off family assets. The land deals were completely legal, he said, adding he was considering taking his accusers to court.

DPP politicians also questioned why, within the area destined for the high speed rail project, Liu’s home had been left standing, while a nearby historic ceramics factory had been razed.
The kilns were a local tourist attraction. The Taipei Times reported last year:
Control Yuan members Chou Yang-san (周陽山), Chen Yung-hsiang (陳永祥) and Ma Yi-kung (馬以工) launched the probe into how the county government handled the issue in March after local historians and activists protested against the county government's decision to tear down the kilns — the last witness to the county's once-prosperous pottery industry.

Aside from forming the Alliance to Rescue the Historic Kilns of Miaoli, more than 50 civic groups nationwide and about 600 individuals signed a petition calling on authorities to preserve the kilns.

In 2003, the county government unveiled a plan to build a station for the high speed rail nearby and drew up an urban development project to turn the surrounding area into a transportation hub and high-tech industrial zone.

After the plans were drawn up, the county's Cultural Heritage Assessment Commission said the three remaining old-style kilns were not of “enough historic value for preservation” and could be torn down.
If the government had possessed the imagination to keep the kilns right next to the HSR station, they might have blossomed into a serious tourist revenue generator. But local construction-industrial state cronies make more money from land speculation.

The hidden ethnic factor here is that the area in Miaoli where this is happening is full of Hakkas, traditional supporters of the KMT, thanks to its exploitation of ethnic politics. It will be interesting to see if this, and the flooding that occurred during Morakot last year in predominantly ethnic Hakka areas around Linbian in southern Taiwan, have any effect on the Hakka vote.

In addition to farmers from Miaoli, farmers from Erlin in Changhua are protesting against seizing their land for expansion of the central Taiwan science park. Taiwan News says:
The farmers, from Hsiangszuliao in the township of Erlin, said they would refuse to give up their land to a road project for the Central Taiwan Science Park.



A total of 21 farmers in Erlin would refuse to sell their land and organize protests, activists said at a news conference in Taipei Tuesday. They said that monetary compensation was not enough, since losing their land also meant they were losing their livelihoods and would have no work when the money ran out.

The activists also said that the Central Taiwan Science Park was still vacant for 50 percent, making the seizure of land outside its present area totally superfluous.

The Changhua County farmers said they would hold a protest outside the Presidential Office Building in Taipei similar to the one held last July 17 by their colleagues from Miaoli. The overnight sit-in rallied more than 1,000 supporters and was believed to be essential in persuading the central government to tackle the problem. Ruling Kuomintang lawmakers feared that as a result of the protests, the party might lose significant numbers of votes in the crucial November regional elections.
The Council of Agriculture (CoA) called for....coordination.
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