The scenery of Taiwan's countryside as simple and stunningly beautiful as depicted by the above popular lullaby will soon be vanished. Small rivers will be replaced by sewage pipes, hills will be flattened, and there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of factories and sumptuous villas rise in the middle of farmland. Of course, there will be potted plant inside the walls of these villas, but there won't be egrets or even sparrows anymore.
On December 18th, 2008, soon after the news that the Economics Committee of Legislative Yuan had examined and passed all articles concerning Rural Renewal Statute through the First Reading procedure, discussions spread through on the Internet. With the promise of pouring 200 billion NTD into rural villages in ten years, the first idea popped up many people's minds is “this is a opportunity for countryside!”, but is it really so? Bloggers and citizen journalists have different answers.
munch quickly wrote “Three minutes to understand the Statute of Rural Renewal” for those who are eager to know the implications of these articles:
…Inside a community organization, you have to integrate first, and you can only have one plan; if there is any diversified ideas, handle them yourselves in the local level. This restriction foresees sanguinary slaughters for resources between and inside traditional mighty local organizations and community building ideal-based groups….
…”Facilities for sewage treatment, garbage cleansing, and resource recycling”…under the disguise of renewal developing area, all applications are to be submitted by local villages, get checked and ratified by central government so as to redefine the land use. In other words, all the heavily-polluting industries can therefore become a part of rural renewal via redefinition of land use.
…There's a huge amount of money, distributed to villages with plans to decorate their outlook. No matter who gets the money, a fight must be taken in the local first, …local residents will be responsible for the cultural landscape planning in the living areas, while the renewal areas are in the hands of local government to develop industry. Farmers with no capital? You can sit aside and watch.
Cai Pei-hui, a PhD candidate of the Institute of Agriculture Promotion in Taiwan University, summarized the Statute and commented in Coolloud:
2….The best mode for Taiwan's rural farming villages should base on small peasantry economy, and maximize the scale of cooperative production and marketing, instead of manipulation and exploitation of land resources…
3. ….The part of “integrating local organizations” in the statute will impose restriction on the development of farmer's organizations.
Cai Jian-Fu also commented on the Statute in Dfun, a citizen media focusing on agriculture and rural living experiences:
Apart from discussing the issue among themselves, concerned citizens also visit local villages and organize town hall meeting with villagers. Citizen media and campaign sites like Todei, Dfun, and Coolloud have detailed reports. On Dfun, a post titled “If you are a son or daughter from a farmer's family…” ignites a lot of discussions, and for the first time, peasants’ voices are widely heard in the Internet:
不敢稱農家子弟 Don't call me a son of a farmer's family said in a reply:
Professionals also join in the discussion. A letter that expresses “Apology to Next Generation's Architects”, written by an architect Sun De-hong, has been widely spread over the Internet, in which he mentioned:
greenlost at oikos-taiwan reflects upon the the statute from the perspective of environmental justice and ecological ethics(zh). He questions the whole logic of the debate:
PTS's program “Our Island” has a special coverage on the statute and its possible consequence(zh)：
The dispute is getting hotter when more farmers and villagers are expressing their voices on personal blogs, forums, and citizen media. However, KMT, the ruling party and DPP, the major opposition party, are both pushing the statute into Second Reading procedure in the Legislative Yuan since another round of local election is coming. Very few politicians would give up this opportunity to gain more votes from the election. Moreover, impacted by the global financial crisis, spending more money has become the new political correctness in Taiwan's Governmental dictionary for rescuing the economy.
Unfortunately, on March 26th when a public hearing for this issue was held in the Legislative Yuan in downtown Taipei, farmers and citizen journalists who travelled a long way from southern Taiwan to express their concern toward this expensive and environmentally exploitative statute were forbidden from entering the hall entirely (zh).
Ridiculous? This is Taiwan.
This post is orginally written in Chinese Traditional by Liu Wei-ting at NewStory, edited and rewritten into English by Portnoy.