Sun, Mar 10, 2002 - Page 3 News List

1,000 protest relaxation of wafer rules

HAVING THEIR SAY The protesters denounced government plans to allow the construction of eight-inch wafer foundries in China, urging that the decision be postponed

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, center - along with Cabinet Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan, right - met with protesters yesterday who are opposed to the government's decision to allow local chipmakers to build eight-inch wafer plants in China.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Approximately 1,000 people took to the streets of Taipei yesterday to oppose the government's decision to conditionally lift the ban on two leading semiconductor manufacturers building eight-inch wafer foundries in China.

Organizers of the demonstration, the Taiwan Association of University Professors (台教會, TAUP) and the Taiwanese Engineers' Association (台灣工程師協會), appealed to the government to postpone the decision until the production of 12-inch wafers becomes more widespread.

They said changes made now will harm the nation's industrial and economic development and exacerbate unemployment.

With regards to investment in China, they claimed the opening up should be based on effective management. They also requested that the government provide people with clear explanations when making public policy.

The government will decide by the end of March whether to allow a request from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台基電) and United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) -- the world's largest and second largest contract chipmakers respectively -- to set up foundries in China.

The two-and-a-half-hour march ended after Cabinet Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) and Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) came out to receive the protesters' petition.

Tsai assured the demonstrators that top-notch technology will remain in Taiwan and that authorities will carefully manage the timetable with respect to the private sectors' investment in China.

Implying that authorities have decided to have the ban lifted, Tsai told reporters afterwards that "government policies won't be affected by an accidental event."

Around 1,000 protesters -- mostly supporters of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the Friends of Lee Teng-hui Association and the Taiwan Independence Party -- took part in the march. Some DPP members also joined the event.

Chanting slogans such as "Keeping roots in Taiwan" and "Postponing the opening up of the investment of eight-inch chipmakers to China," Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽), director of the TAUP, said he hoped the government will think twice before relaxing the restrictions.

Chipmakers are the backbone of Taiwan's electronics industry, Chang said.

Once the ban is lifted, electronics-related companies will go to China, including the chip designing companies and packing and testing factories, he warned.

Lo Cheng-fang (羅正方), director of the Satellite GeoInformatics Research Center at National Cheng Kung University, told the crowd that the petroleum-chemical industry, liquid-crystal-display makers and chipmaking foundries were the three sectors with the most valuable techniques and talent.

These industries can't be permitted to invest in China, Lo said.

As a result of brainstorming at the Economic Development Advisory Conference last August, the cross-strait "no haste, be patient" policy was modified and a new policy of "active opening, effective management" emerged.

The demonstrators yesterday, however, criticized the government as leaning too much toward "active opening" while ignoring the "effective management."

To try to ease the crowd's concerns, Tsai said that since last December, the government has been placing an emphasis on management.

Lee said special regulations have been adopted in the US and in Singapore to restrict highly secret technology from being exported and said that the government will come up with similar measures soon.

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