A whirlwind visit by some of the country’s top diplomats on Friday to typhoon-hit areas undergoing reconstruction in the south drew the ire of residents because the visitors only made a quick circuit of the community while remaining on their buses.
A resident surnamed Hung (洪) said he saw three buses head into the “Kaohsiung Shanlin Tzu Chi Great Love Village,” (高雄杉林慈濟大愛園區) where 752 households live in permanent housing, at about noon on Friday and leave after slowly driving in a loop around the village.
“Had they been sincere in extending their concern to victims, they would have gotten off the buses,” said Hung, who moved to the village from Liouguei (六龜), which suffered severe damage during floods caused by Typhoon Morakot two years ago.
Some residents, who were not aware of the visit beforehand, wondered who the visitors were and described them as “bad-mannered” for touring typhoon victims’ housing as if it were a sightseeing spot, only to later find out that they were the heads of the nation’s overseas diplomatic missions and representative offices.
Some residents drew an analogy between the group’s visit and a trip to the zoo.
The visit by 81 representatives and diplomats, who gathered in Taipei earlier this week for a three-day meeting, came at the request of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the trip was scheduled so that diplomats could keep abreast of the country’s post-Morakot reconstruction efforts and so that they could thank foreign officials for their help when they return to their posts.
The visit was also organized so the diplomats could learn how the typhoon victims had recovered and rebuilt their lives, which could provide a model for Taiwan’s humanitarian aid to other countries, the ministry added.
At about 11:40am on Friday, the diplomats arrived in three buses at the village hall where they were briefed on reconstruction work as they had lunch. This was followed by the bus tour of the village’s permanent housing.
The buses then took the diplomats to Younglin Organic Farm (永齡有機農場), which is about 800m from the Great Love Village and was developed to help typhoon victims learn about organic farming as a way of making a living, where they were given a 20-minute briefing.
Following this, the buses headed to another newly built community for victims from Siaolin Village (小林) in Greater Kaohsiung, one of the areas hardest hit by Morakot.
The journey to the reconstruction areas ended at 2:40pm.
While some of the diplomats said the itinerary was too rushed and left them no time to visit the permanent housing, most kept quiet when asked whether their visit to the villages without interacting with residents would be negatively perceived.
Speaking to reporters, Ambassador to Belize David Wu (吳建國) said they did not get off the buses because the schedule was tight, but he did get a sense of the rebuilding efforts from the briefings.
“[To get a more in-depth understanding,] we might need to read more materials afterward,” Wu said.
Ambassador to Haiti Liu Bang-zyh (劉邦治) said he did not have a chance to take a look at the interior of the permanent housing.
Wang Ming-yao (王明耀), a resident of the Great Love Village, said the diplomats would have gained just a superficial understanding about people’s experiences during the post-disaster reconstruction through such a cursory trip.