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Sun, Dec 31, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Gambling proposal sparks outcry

CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR Opponents of a plan to set up casinos on Matsu and Kinmen say the policy would undermine Taiwan's efforts to eradicate organized crime

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Politicians, scholars and religious leaders lambasted a suggestion by a Cabinet member to allow the establishment of casinos on Taiwan's offshore islands.

They have called the proposed policy contradictory to the government's aim of cracking down on crime, citing inextricable links between gambling and criminal activity.

"Gambling is a key source of crime. It brings about depravity and exhausts one's wealth. A responsible government should not be so shortsighted ... I think [the government] is being degenerate when it seeks to make use of this proposal as a bait to lure Chinese tourists," Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui (釋昭慧) said at a press conference held at the legislature yesterday.

Master Chao-hui was referring specifically to a proposal made on Dec. 27 by Lin Chia-cheng (林嘉誠), chairman of the Cabinet's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (研考會). Lin suggested building casinos on Kinmen and Matsu in order to stimulate local business and restore residents' confidence in the "small three links" scheme, which is suffering numerous setbacks because of China's unwillingness to support the initiative.

Other attending religious leaders, including Lu Chunyi (盧俊義), a minister of the Presbyterian East Gate Church and Brother Laurenz Schelbert (薛弘道), a Catholic monk at KPS Spiritual Development Studio, agreed with Master Chao-hui.

They warned that legalized gambling would set a bad example for teenagers and would erode social values.

Lin Duan (林端), an associate professor of sociology at National Taiwan University, said he was surprised to learn about the proposal, and expressed doubt as to whether casinos would indeed help boost the local economies of Kinmen and Matsu.

"The [gambling] business only requires professionals in that field, so it is not possible for the scheme to create more job opportunities for local residents -- who are mainly farmers and fishermen," Lin said.

"In a bid to put a halt to the exodus of local residents, the government should map out a long-term plan to promote development from different aspects, such as establishing colleges so local youngsters do not have to leave [the islands] for higher education. It is an unrealistic idea to think that setting up casinos would keep the locals from emigrating."

Lin went on to point out that the only group to benefit from the proposal would be the capitalists and politicians who control the majority of property there, and that the ordinary people would get very limited benefits.

KMT Legislator Chen Horng-chi (陳鴻基) and New Party Legislator Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大), appearing at the meeting to shore up support for the petition, said the construction of casinos would be a severe blow to Taiwan's development and that the impact on the next generation, if gambling were legalized, could be incalculable.

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