Taiwan's Cultural, Business Icons Unite to Stop Highway

By Kay Li

TAIPEI, Taiwan, March 26, 2007 (ENS) - Influential people in Taiwan's cultural arts circles and business communities have joined forces to oppose what they call the government’s "myopic" plans for constructing the Su-Hua Highway on the island's undeveloped east coast.

Documentary director Chen Jin-fa addressed a large group of media on March 7 with the question, "How much land does Taiwan have left to save?"

During the press conference, Yan Chang-shou, CEO of the Landis Group of Hotels, called on influential figures in the cultural arts industry to stand united against the Su-Hua Highway.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre founder Lin Huai-min, aboriginal musician Hu De-fu, and film director Hou Hsiao-shian are among those raising their voices against the proposed highway.

If constructed, critics say the highway would undermine the pristine sightseeing destinations and creative development of cultural heritage sites in the Hualien and Taitung region by opening up the area to floods of weekend tourists.

The approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) between the town of Suao in the north and the city of Hualien is a strip of land with its back to the Central Mountain Range and its face to the Pacific Ocean.

cliffs

The road from Suao to Hualien is notched into the cliffs along Taiwan's east coast. (Photo credit unknown)
The present highway is narrow, winding and perilous, with a steep drop-off on one side and the constant threat of falling rocks and landslides on the other that is closed by landslides after earthquakes and by waterfalls during typhoons.

Taiwan's Public Construction Commission Chairman Wu Tze-cheng in February called for the public to support the proposed highway.

This issue has turned the region into a fierce battleground for the 2008 presidential election.

Based on environmental analysis survey findings, the Environmental Protection Administration, EPA, plans to convene another Su-Hua Highway environmental impact gap analysis meeting in late March.

The highway opponents say it is essential at this critical conjecture for friends who are concerned about Taiwan to put pressure on the government to stop the highway. It is particularly important for opposition political parties conducting governmental oversight to stand up and shoulder their responsibility, they said.

Yan said that these friends will form a Clean Hua-Tung Construction Volunteer Organization, presenting the government with a report on the unique Hualian and Taitung County features and resolutions for reference with the goal of halting plans for the highway construction.

These efforts will continue intensifying full force throughout the 2008 presidential election campaign.

Yan said that opposition means more than just halting the construction of the Su-Hua Highway. It will also significantly benefit the people of Hualien and Taitung region, he said, "allowing them to actualize more sustainable futures by allowing the world to see Taiwan’s unique qualities from a global perspective."

Construction of the Su-Hua Highway merely will function as a route for weekend and holiday traffic flow, he said, while it will remain virtually deserted during other periods.

The construction engineering companies and the cement industry will be the ones reaping the greatest benefit, said Yan.

Suao

Taiwan's pristine east coast near Suao. (Photo courtesy Rainer Deutschmann)
Yan explained that there are many ways of resolving the Hua-Tung traffic problems, "It’s just a matter of whether or not the government is willing to take action."

Cloud Gate Dance Theater's Lin, does not want to see Hua-Tung become another Jiaoshi or Lushan. He says that over-development has already tarnished many parts of Taiwan’s natural beauty and splendor.

"Hualien and Taitung counties offer us the freedom of space far removed from Taiwan’s heavily developed western coast," said Lin. "If the Su-Hua Highway is built, it will destroy the natural environment and further uproot the soul of our homeland."

"One day we won’t be able to find the door to our homes, we will once again roam homeless on this land," said Hu, the long-time social activist and aboriginal musician. From an indigenous person’s identity he appeals to the government to stop the Su-Hua highway construction, warning that it will "shatter our homeland."

Hu said that many years have passed since the idea of building the Su-Hua Highway first arose, but the proposed tourism development plans have never been carried out. He said that the highway construction money could be better used by the local communities, for purposes including better education for aboriginal children.

Others who have signed the petition to stop construction of the Su-Hua Highway include Chunghwa Telecom Foundation President Hsu Lu, ASUSTek Computer Vice-President Tong Zi-hsien, Magis Networks Inc. Chairperson Ke Wen-chang, The Society of Wilderness President LE Wei-wen, the writer Long Ying-tai, Chunghwa Telecom Chairman He Chen-dan, Hsin-Kong Foundation Founder and Chairperson Chen Jin-huang, and the Paper Wind Mill Foundation Director Li Yung-feng.

These influential figures concerned about the Hua-Tung Highway issue have also set up online petitions - "Hualien County Mass Transit Development," "Revival of the Hualian County Coastline," and "Hualien County Community Cultural Sites Development." These are relevant issues that further support and put pressure on the government to stop construction of the Su-Hua Highway.