Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Green Party’s Calvin Wen forced down camphor tree

TREE UNDER SIEGE Following the removal by force of demonstrators at the Songshan Tobacco Factory, Calvin Wen said he would file a lawsuit against the Taipei mayor

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei police yesterday afternoon removed Green Party Taiwan candidate for the Da-an District (大安) legislative by-election Calvin Wen (溫炳原) from a tree at the Songshan Tobacco Factory after the latter stayed in the tree overnight in an attempt to prevent it from being cut down.

Environmental groups, including Green Party Taiwan, and local residents have opposed the Taipei City Government’s plan to turn the site of the former Songshan Tobacco Factory — which ceased operations in 1998 — into a sports and entertainment complex for fear that the project would damage the local ecosystem and deprive local residents of a green space at the heart of the city.

Left untouched by urban development since its establishment in the 1930s — and especially after it was shut down — the site is now covered with thick vegetation, providing a habitat to many rare species.

Despite the opposition, the city government signed a build-operate-transfer contract with the Farglory Group and began construction.

Removing old trees from the site is the initial step in the project.

Wen was among the environmentalists and local residents who rushed to block the removal of a camphor tree at the site of the factory on Friday.

While police arrested all other demonstrators, Wen on Friday escaped arrest and successfully prevented the tree from being removed by climbing it.

After several physical clashes on Friday between police and protestors, an agreement was reached whereupon four aides would be allowed to enter the site to look after Wen.

However, at about 1pm yesterday, officials from the Department of Education accompanied by police officers showed up and asked Wen’s aides to leave immediately.

As they refused to leave, police removed them by force.

“I refused to leave and the officers dragged me away and took me to the Xinyi Police Precinct Office — my back still hurts from it,” said Amnesty International Taiwan director Wang Hsing-chung (王興中), who was one of Wen’s four aides, after leaving the police station.

Afterwards, Wen, who had tied himself to the tree, was also forcibly removed by police officers who reached him only with the help of a fire truck.

“We will file a lawsuit against Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin [郝龍斌] based on the Environmental Impact Assessment Act [環境影響評估法],” Wen told the Taipei Times yesterday.

Green Party Taiwan accused the city government of violating the law because although the construction project passed the first environmental impact assessment, a second assessment was still in process since Farglory made changes to the project.

The Taipei Cultural and Sports Park — the official name of the future sports complex — executive secretary Lee Kan (李侃) declined to comment, while Department of Education Chief Secretary Lin Hsin-yao (林信耀) could not be reached for comment at press time.

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