Mon, Aug 23, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Letters

Reconsider highway project

I am a professor of geography visiting Taiwan, and have read about the proposed construction of a freeway from Taipei to Hualien. The experience of communities in North America and Europe has been fairly consistent: the construction of such highways is invariably supported by powerful economic interests and leads to severe environmental degradation, the irretrievable loss of tourism and a flow of natural resources and youth from rural areas into cities.

I had the pleasure of visiting Hualien. In stark contrast to the concrete behemoth megalopolis that now extends from Taipei to Kaohsiung, Taiwan's east coast is an almost unspoiled paradise. It is to be hoped that progressive politicians will realize that the area's relative remoteness and natural beauty represent a vast reservoir of wealth that will sustain future generations.

By contrast, the freeway project, while bringing in some short-term employment and a few juicy contracts for road builders and their political cronies, will leave behind a legacy of environmental and cultural damage from which Hualien will be unlikely to recover.

Indeed, the only obvious benefactor of the construction is the Hualien Ocean Park and related hotel. The scholarly literature is quite clear about this as well.

Such "conventional mass tourism" sites rarely bring lasting local benefits, again benefiting only a few very wealthy investors, while bankrupting smaller family tourism operators and thereby driving down local wages.

I fervently hope that my next visit to this beautiful country is not marred by news that the Hualien freeway project has gone ahead despite the carefully considered protests of its opponents.

William Hipwell

South Korea

Aussie hypocrisy

Hopefully the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer didn't get too much blood on his dress whilst waltzing with the Butchers of Beijing ("Australian minister plays down China's threat to Taiwan," Aug. 17, page 1). So Australia has now well and truly joined the ranks of the brown-nosers crawling to Beijing to try and fill their pockets.

His grasp of history, when urging the democratically-elected leader of another nation to "behave," appears to be non-existent. Would he have said the same to Mahatma Gandhi, Michael Collins, George Washington and a myriad of others who have walked the rocky road towards freedom and peace for their people?

Next time the troublemakers Down Under start their bleating for a Republic, perhaps the British should send in the gunboats to put them in their place -- rightfully under the rule of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.

Michael Keeley

Tainan

Beijing's policy will backfire

China is desperate to stem Taiwan's further drift from its sphere of influence. Beijing has threatened Taiwanese businessmen in China because they supported President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Taiwanese companies have invested an estimated US$100 billion in China over the past decade alone. Indeed, Taiwanese businessmen are the principal movers and shakers in the Chinese economy. But these people know that China will not allow anything to stand in the way of the annexation of Taiwan so they keep their mouths shut.

When Taiwan's government recently held its annual meeting in Taiwan for China-based Taiwanese executives, Beijing was busy applying pressure to prevent them from attending the meeting.

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