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Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Liquor board plans festival finale

END OF AN ERA The two-week event is planned to mark 100 years of the state monopoly on liquor and tobacco production before it is made a corporation in preparation for WTO entry

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Union members of the Chienkuo Beer Factory stage a protest yesterday in front of the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board in Taipei to express their anger at the board's plan to close down the factory.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, LIBERTY TIMES

The Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board yesterday announced it will hold a liquor culture festival this Saturday, in remembrance of the 100-year-old state monopoly on the sale of tobacco and liquor.

The monopoly is set to end later this year to bring the industry in to accord with international market regulations. The abolition of the monopoly system was a step taken by Taiwan to open up its market and prepare for expected entry to the WTO.

Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥), director-general of the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board, said the system came into effect in 1901, during Japanese colonial rule, and it celebrates its 100th birthday this year according to Chinese calculation.

"We are holding this birthday celebration, instead of waiting for its centennial anniversary, because the monopoly system is going to end this year, which means it won't have any centennial anniversary at all," Shih said.

Following the passage of the Tobacco and Liquor Tax Law in March, the Ministry of Finance raised a preliminary proposal to implement the law in September, after which time the monopoly system would be abolished. "The festival will be held in remembrance of the monopoly system," Shih added.

Shih said since the public impression of tobacco tends to be negative, the board decided to highlight liquor culture as the theme of its celebration.

While the festival will take place from May 13 to May 28 at a Taipei tobacco factory that is no longer in use, a beer factory located in Taipei will be opened to the public.

In addition to an exhibition where people can see liquor containers, labels and relevant items that have been used over the past century, there will be art performances and even live demonstrations of cooking using liquor produced by the board.

A detailed schedule of the festival will be made available at major book stores and department stores.

In line with the abolition of the monopoly system, the government is planning to turn the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board into a corporation to pave the way for its privatization in the future.

Many of the board's facilities are to be downsized to improve cost-efficiency or relocated to comply with the urban planning of local governments. Among these facilities, the Taipei beer factory to be opened to the public during the festival is set to halt operations soon.

While most of the workers have been relocated to another beer factory in Miaoli County, there are still 109 workers awaiting relocation.

Unhappy with the board's plan to close down the factory, workers' representatives yesterday staged a demonstration outside the board's headquarters.

Wu Shu-jung (吳樹榮), a leader of the workers' union, accused board officials of deliberately playing down the beer factory's role during the liquor culture festival, in order to obscure its impending closure.

In response, Shih said the board picked the tobacco factory, instead of the beer factory, as the site of the liquor festival because the tobacco factory has already stopped operation and its size is big enough to accommodate 20,000 people.

Shih said the workers' opposition to the relocation plan is understandable, since they will have to work far away from home.

He said the board will continue to communicate with the workers to try to resolve the dispute.

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