Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year !

Taiwan Humpback Dolphins: photo courtesy of FormosaCetus

Happy New Year,
and all the best for 2009 !

"Because every green measure, every conservation effort and all the little economies we could make in our daily lives, may look insignificant if we choose to look at the big picture. On the other hand, if we view that big picture as millions of little choices made by people just like us, that's how we can come to understand why it's our own choices that are so important."
A comment posted on Birdforum by James Owen.

High Court Upholds Conviction: Battery of Robin Winkler by Yunlin County Assembly Speaker Su Jin-huang

A press release we've received from Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association* concerning the Robin Winkler battery case.

High Court Upholds Conviction:
Battery of Robin Winkler by Yunlin County Assembly Speaker Su Jin-huang

For immediate release 2008/12/30

Taiwan Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association (台灣蠻野心足生態協會)

On 7 November 2007, Yunlin County Assembly Speaker Su Jin-huang (蘇金煌) assaulted former Environmental Impact Assessment Committee member Robin Winkler (Wen Lu-bin 文魯彬) at an environmental impact assessment hearing held at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (環保署) Taipei offices. The hearing was held to review the environmental impact of the Formosa Plastics Group’s proposed US$5 billion steel plant in Taisi Township (台西), Yunlin County. In October 2008, Su was convicted of the assault and was sentenced to six months imprisonment convertible to a fine. Both Su and the prosecutor filed appeals with the Taiwan High Court. The High Court today dismissed both appeals and upheld Su’s conviction and sentence by the District Court.

While the Courts of Taiwan have now affirmed Su’s criminal culpability, Wild at Heart is concerned that the media and public do not understood the full truth and significance of what transpired at the Environmental Protection Agency 14 months ago.

During the District Court trial Su Jinhuang repeatedly declared that he did not hit (da) anyone. During the High Court trial he changed his testimony and stated that "Winkler wanted to shake hands with me, and I mistakenly thought he wanted to hit me. I brushed him away and carelessly injured him."1 This statement clearly shows that Su made contact with and injured Winkler in direct contradiction of his testimony in his first trial that he did not hit anyone.

Although Winkler suffered considerable emotional distress from the battery and feared for his personal safety given Su’s long criminal record including a conviction for attempted murder for which he was sentenced to seven and half years imprisonment and prosecution for the rape and kidnapping of a minor in 1981, he bears no ill will towards Su Jin-huang and does not seek to have him apologize or pay damages. Winkler nonetheless filed his criminal complaint against Su for the following reasons:

to reveal theviolence and intimidation that is associated with major development projects in Yunlin County, especially those connected to the Formosa Plastics Group;
to expose the negligence and complicity of the Environmental Protection Agency with developers and established local political interests in Yunlin County by allowing a convicted criminal and his associates to assault and batter environmentalists during a public hearing at the Agency’s Taipei headquarters; and
to draw the public’s attention to the devastating effects that nearly two decades of industrial projects by Formosa Plastics have had on the environment and society of Yunlin County, traditionally one of Taiwan’s poorest and most agrarian regions. This devastation has been actively aided by local political interests with their organized crime connections and passively abetted by the negligence of Environmental Protection Agency, which not only has utterly failed in its duty to protect the environment of Yunlin County and the health of its people, but also to adequately safeguard the statutory review processes held in its own premises in Taipei.

All Winkler has ever asked from Su is that Su admit that he battered Winkler. Winkler’s real complaint is that the Environmental Protection Agency has failed in its mandate to protect the land and the people of Yunlin County.

For more information, please contact Wild at Heart Attorney George Chen at 0917-257-207 ( or Huang Hsin-yi (黃心怡) at 02-2382-5789 (

*Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association is the secretariat for the Matsu's Fish Conservation Union.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Update on the case of Yunlin County Assembly Chief's battery of Robin Winkler during a Formosa Plastics Steel Plant Meeting

Tuesday saw the first hearing, and possibly last, in the High Court appeal of the case involving the Yunlin Assembly Chief Su Chin-huang's battering of Robin Winkler, director of Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association and a former commissioner on the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Environmental Impact Assessment Commission at a meeting at the Taiwan EPA offices on 7 November 2007. The district court gave Su six months convertible to a fine and Winkler's legal team were able to persuade the prosecutor to appeal. However, in Taiwan this could mean anything (it could mean anything in just about any court system these days). Su has basically changed his story from total denial, to saying he accidentally struck Winkler because he was afraid Winkler was going to batter him, and then finally to saying "in the interest of social costs of these proceedings and serving my constituents better by not having to spend so much time in court, I will admit for the record that I intentionally battered him."

Winkler hasn't accepted Su's admission and it seems that the prosecutor doesn't either, because, the record Su made included his denial -- and that record will be available to him and others to use for their spin. Winkler also asked for the printing of the admission in the newspapers and in the same announcement to promise not to use violence against anyone again. Su pointed out that he is a politician and that it wouldn't be good for him to have the admission printed. The judge seem to support the admission being printed but said that the promise went beyond the scope of the case!

Now, Winkler is to propose language, get Su's agreement, and give it to the court within a week. The prosecutor says Su hasn't admitted anything, and is pressing for a harsher sentence. It is doubtful Su will agree to Winkler's terms.

It is a possibility that Su gets something like a year and then is given three years commutation, at which time the record will basically be expunged. It remains to be seen if the ruling Chinese National Party (KMT) will get involved. President Ma hasn't distanced himself from Su after Su was found guilty.

And then again, we could see "justice served" (?) and they lock Su up for a while. If the court doesn't take a strong stand they will be sending the signal that anyone daring to challenge the EPA/scholars/business cabal....well, beating people up -- is okay.

Also see:
Yunlin County Assembly Head Found Guilty of Battery of Robin Winkler during Formosa Plastics Steel Plant Meeting

Second Investigative Hearing into Assault against Wild at Heart Director at Meeting Involving Humpback Dolphins

Protesters accuse the EPA of protecting big business

Environmental activists denounce EPA

For the background and details of the November 2007 incident, see “Yunlin County Assembly Head Su Chin-Huang Found Guilty of Battery of Robin Winkler during Formosa Plastics Steel Plant Meeting” on the Wild at Heart blog.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Taipower shenanigans ?

The world's dirtiest power plant. Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung, through the haze.

Taiwan Power Company (Taipower), with its monopoly on power provision and about 60% of the nation's energy production has had some of its antics brought into the open. During Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association Director Robin Winkler's term as commissioner on the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Environmental Impact Assessment Commission, the first and second phases of a proposed power plant of Taipower were reviewed. The proposed plant, in addition to being located midway between the world's first and fifth largest power plant emitters of CO2, would have severely exacerbated the already severely polluted west coast of Taiwan, home to the small and unique critically endangered endemic population of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins. On the day following the subcommittee's rejection, Winkler was approached at the EPA during another Taipower case by a Taipower employee who in a very serious voice said, "what are we going to do? We already signed the contracts to purchase the equipment for the plants."? Taipower has a reputation for having engaged in illegal and irresponsible practices for years. While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power, some of those shenanigans started to come to light. But now that the old Chinese National Party (KMT) is back, the sorts of coincidences reported here are likely to become more commonplace.


Taipower Coal Purchasing Documents Audaciously Stolen on the Eve of Control Yuan Investigation, 12 November 2008

Taiwan's national power company, Taipower, under the leadership of the Ma Ying-jeou Administration, has been alleged to have purchased overpriced fuel coal, causing protracted overpricing of power bills to the country's consumers. Strangely enough, just as Taiwan's national governmental watchdog body, the Control Yuan, was preparing to launch an investigation, the storehouse in which Taipower keeps the files of its external purchasing contracts was burglarized. Even stranger, the only documents stolen in the burglary were the fuel coal purchase agreement documents. The peculiar circumstances of the theft have led to speculation that the burglary was aimed at making evidence disappear.

According to a report in the latest issue of Next Magazine, the Consumer's Foundation had asked the Control Yuan earlier this month to investigate concerns that continuing high power prices, despite a recent 44.65% drop in fuel costs, might indicate foul play. Although the prices of liquefied petroleum gas and fuel oil have both fallen considerably, Taipower has refused to lower power prices, which have gone up twice this year. These circumstances have led the Consumer's Foundation to suspect negligence or malfeasance by Taipower and Ministry of Economic Affairs, prompting the request for a Control Yuan investigation.

The Control Yuan member on duty the day the Control Yuan filed its request, Cheng Jen-hung, formally opened a Control Yuan case with a written recommendation for an on-site investigation. In the lead-up to the investigation, Taipower stated its case to the Control Yuan, but the Control Yuan found the explanations unsatisfactory. Just as the formal investigation was about to get underway, Taipower's document storage room was burglarized, and the document stolen was an important piece of evidence targeted in the Control Yuan investigation. The theft of the document has further fed suspicions that behind-the-scenes forces are at work in the case.

(Translation courtesy of Executive Yuan, Corporate Social Responsbility Center)

A critically endangered Taiwan Humpback Dolphin (bottom left) in the waters off the world's dirtiest power plant. Click to enlarge !

More photos of the Wuchi Power Plant, Taichung, through the haze of pollution.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another reason to save the west coast: Saunders's Gull

Four wintering Saunders's Gulls wading on a west coast mudflat, 2008-11-30.

Three Saunders's Gulls in the foreground with Black-headed Gulls and other waders in the background, 2008-11-30.

A lone Saunders's Gull center with other waders and Black-headed Gulls around it, 2008-11-30.

The Saunders's Gull Larus saundersi is one of East Asia's most threatened gulls. The global population of Saunders's Gull is estimated at 7,100 - 9,600 and decreasing (A recent paper by Cao et el gives a higher population total but states the increase is almost certainly due to increased survey effort and the paper still shows that the population is fast declining). The IUCN and BirdLife list the species as Vulnerable on the Red List. Between 1500-2000 Saunders's Gulls winter along Taiwan's central west coast.

The Saunders's Gull inhabits estuarine mudflats and so has largely the same habitat requirements as that of the Taiwan Humpback Dolphin. It winters on Taiwan's west coast in the same areas as the humpback dolphins are found. As we stand on the edge of a precipice with the fate of the Taiwan Humpback dolphins in our hands. If we act to save these dolphins now, we may be able to pull them back from the brink, but if we don't and the dolphins plunge over the edge into extinction, species like the Saunders's Gull, will be following in their wake. As you read this on your computer screen, in all probability, many parts of your PC come from factories on Taiwan's west coast where so-called industry and development are pushing these dolphins and gulls over the edge into extinction. You may be on the otherside of the world but the chances are you are part of the problem. You need to speak out now and get the Taiwanese authorities and industry to act responsibly and do something decisive to save the Taiwan humpback dolphins and the other creatures of Taiwan's west coast.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"
Martin Luther King, Jr.