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Thursday, July 7, 2011
(I had not intended to write another American Action Report article. My purpose for starting the blog, above all, was to provide action-minded individuals with a framework for understanding today’s events—as a framework for action. Many of my articles have titles like “How Such-and-such Really Works.” Feeling that the blog had fulfilled that purpose, I turned my attention to making a living and various unpleasant chores that have nothing to do with my job, though my job expects them.
(I must now make an exception and break my silence. The lands of hundreds of poor farmers here in Taiwan are subject to legalized theft for the benefit of large, polluting corporations, some of which—or all of which—are major supporters of powerful politicians who are abetting this injustice. The farmers will lose their land in just a few months unless action is taken to turn things around.)
Many of us take for granted the constitutional guarantee that no one should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. In Taiwan, however, land can be seized “for the general good.” Politicians and bureaucrats have the power to define “general good.”
I addressed this issue once before, in the American Action Report article “Formosa Betrayed Again.” (link) For background information, I urge you to give the article a quick read.
Here are a few highlights:
The farmers took their case to Quasi-president Ma Ying-jeou (Officially, he’s president of a huge empire extending from Taiwan to the Kashmir Valley in India, except when a lower-level Chinese bureaucrat comes to town. On these occasions, all indications of the existence of his government disappear, and he becomes just plain old Mr. Ma, subservient to a Chinese master.) President (or Mr. or whatever) Ma promised that they’d get a response within a week.
Taiwan’s farmland is rapidly disappearing, gobbled up by corporate polluters. Remaining farmland is threatened by toxic chemicals. Cancer is the number one cause of death in Taiwan. Not surprisingly, the highest rates of cancer are reportedly found near the sites of major corporate polluters.
The plight of Taiwan’s farmers (who, no doubt, are also seen as humans) at the hands of these exploiters has drawn the attention of several international human rights groups. These groups include such farming rights advocacy groups as Brazil’s Movemento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (Landless Farmers’ Movement, MST) and India’s Navdanya Foundation.
It’s too late to save the farms that were ravaged in Miaoli County a few months ago, but it’s not too late to save the farmers who are threatened today.
For more information, see the Taipei Times article “Rights groups protest against expropriation.” (link)