Fri, May 30, 2003 - Page 17 News List

The battle for Sun-an beach puts concert on hold

The latest Hualien beach development scandal has led to the delay of a concert because the contractors are threatening to shed protesters' blood

By David Frazier  /  STAFF REPORTER

Families and musicians at gather at Sun-an beach in Hualien earlier this month to protest a construction project. Right, children build sand castles. photos courtesy of Douglas Newton

PHOTO COURTESY OF DOUGLAS NEWTON

Protesters hoped to use sand castles and acoustic guitars this weekend to save a Hualien beach from construction, but developers' threats of bloody conflict have delayed what was to be a peaceful protest concert by up to a month.

The event, dubbed Rhapsody in Blue and Green for Sun-an Beach (搶救順安沙灘), was to include the

contemporary folk performer Panai (巴奈) and seven groups of Aborigine, hakka and expatriate musicians.

It was to follow up smaller protests held the last two weekends.

"This is a very beautiful, valuable beach. Local people are very angry at what's happened, Hualien County Councilor Chung Yi-wen (鐘逸文) said.

The stretch of coast in question is located just north of Hualien City in the village of Sun-an. It's a quiet, local beach of pebbles and sand that allows easy access from Hualien.

To the surprise of locals, in mid-April construction crews began covering the beach with tetrapods, 4m-tall concrete forms designed to reclaim land and stop erosion.

The NT$8.8 million construction project was given to Hualien contractors by the Ninth River Management Bureau, an agency of the central government's Ministry of Economic Affairs, responsible for flood control and -- in the case of coastal regions like Hualien -- seawalls and levees. The plan, however, somehow bypassed Hualien's local government agencies altogether.

"The central government slated this area for tourism development but didn't tell the local government how it would do this," said Chung. "The [the Hualien County Government] was not consulted at all."

Local resentment soon led to protest. On the political front, Chung and two other county councilors, Huang Hsian-tung (黃憲東) and Yang Teh-jin (楊德金), rebuked the central government for what they said was an ill-conceived plan that did not bother to consider local concerns.

Meanwhile, local artists and environmentalists led peaceful protests on the beach itself.

Last weekend more than 100 convened on the ocean-side stretch as families fashioned sand castles and children used colored chalk to draw pictures on the tetrapods.

"The save the beach movement" capper was to be a concert tomorrow beginning at 2pm. Taiwan Colors Music recording artist Panai was to lend support along with several well-known groups of Aboriginal and hakka recording artists.

Bands led by expatriates Scott Ezell and Douglas Newton were also to play, and there were to be more sand sculptures of dolphins, octopi and heart shapes. Funding was to come from the Hualien County Government.

In an unexpected twist, the Ninth River Management Bureau yielded to mounting pressure and stopped construction at the beach last Monday. This time it was the contractors who were angry.

"They said there would be bloodshed if we held this activity this weekend, so we think it's best to delay it for now, maybe up to a month," Chung said.

Newton, who is organizing the music, said that one or two changes to the band lineup were inevitable, though Panai is still confirmed.

He added the Taichung band Milk may be able to play when the event does take place, though a date has not been decided. The band was originally interested in the concert but had a conflicting gig in Taipei, he said.

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