by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Pbdragonwang/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 3.0
CHEN FENG-MEI, the DPP mayor of Budai township in Chiayi, is currently under investigation for illegal dumping. This proves one of a series of prominent cases involving illegal dumping in Taiwan, or otherwise involving politicians implicated in land issues.
In particular, Chen is accused of illegally dumping soil from construction on agricultural land, which was used for aquaculture as a fishery. The construction soil came from a power plant development project.
This was carried out by a soil disposal company, which was warned not to continue with these actions in December, but which continued to dump soil on the land as late as February. Investigations in November suggested Chen’s involvement, as a result of which her office and that of a Chiayi city councilor surnamed Lo were searched by police on Friday, September 2nd. Chen’s home was also searched.
Chen was later released on 100,000 NT bail. The director-general of the Budai Township Office Division of Construction, who is surnamed Fang, and a manager from the power plant, which is for solar power, surnamed Hsieh, were released on 50,000 NT bail each.
For her part, Chen claims to have never violated the law in her decades-long political career. Chen previously served two terms as a county councilor and has also served two terms as mayor.
Night market in Budai. Photo credit:
Another case in recent memory involving landfills took place in Miaoli in July. In the course of protests by local residents against the Kunyu landfill’s construction, local residents were attacked by individuals they allege to be gangsters hired by the construction company. Eight were injured.
The protests received relatively little attention in media coverage, despite that this was a significant event for local politics, and later led to 69 individuals being made to make court appearances. A number of politicians of both the pan-Green and pan-Blue camps were present. That is, DPP legislators Hung Sun-han, DPP city councilor Chang Guang-Xuan, former NPP independent Miaoli city councilor Zeng Wen-xue, and former Miaoli county magistrate Liu Cheng-hung of the KMT were among those injured, as they were pepper sprayed and Hung was hit with objects thrown by the individuals alleged to be gangsters. DPP legislator Tang Hui-jane, independent city councilor Chen Pin-an, and former DPP Toufen mayor Hsu Ting-chen were reportedly also present.
Development of the Kunyu landfill was suspected to involve bribery, given that while plans for the landfill date back to the early 2000s, the landfill had seen little development in the decades since. More generally, collusion between gangsters, construction companies, and local politicians, as driving the development of development projects, has been a longstanding issue in rural areas in Taiwan. In return for their aid, politicians and gangsters receive kickbacks from such projects.
Receiving more attention where issues of corruption over development projects are concerned, however, have been cases involving Yilan county magistrate Lin Zi-miao. Lin is currently under investigation about a 5 billion NT development project on a 108-hectare plot of land in Luodong that was originally protected. The land was later rezoned for agricultural use in 2018, though residential building construction and public infrastructure development were allowed on the plot. Investigators suspected that the process of the plot’s rezoning, as well as related land disputes, could have involved lawbreaking.
The son of Lin’s cousin, Lin Shu-mei, a former member of the National Assembly before its abolition and a fellow member of the KMT, was the purchaser of the plot of land. Lin was also investigated for checks worth over 100 million NT received by Lin or her family members from former KMT legislator Yang Chi-hsiung over a period of twenty years, suggesting that the two may have colluded.
Charges facing Lin are of significantly greater severity than those facing Chen in Chiayi. For example, Lin was released on 800,000 NT bail, rather than just 100,000 NT.
Lin has defended herself, by claiming that the investigation against her is politically motivated and intended to affect her reelection campaign. But, as seen with the investigation into Chen Feng-mei in Chiayi, both DPP and KMT politicians are implicated in corruption scandals.