Taipei prosecutors yesterday said they would not indict a professor who Formosa Plastics Group alleged had damaged the group’s reputation with his research.
Tsuang Ben-jei (莊秉潔), a member of National Chung Hsing University’s environmental engineering department faculty, said at a meeting last year of the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) environmental impact assessment committee that heavy metals and carcinogenic substances contained in the exhaust gas emitted by the group’s No. 6 Naphtha Cracker Plant in Mailiao Township (麥寮) had resulted in elevated cancer rates among residents in the area.
Saying Tsuang’s remarks had damaged its reputation, the group filed a defamation lawsuit against Tsuang with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office.
Prosecutors said Tsuang was invited to the EPA meeting as an expert and his remarks concerned public health and significant environmental protection issues.
They said that even though his conclusions might not be entirely objective or precise, his motive was benign and he did not defame the group.
Tsuang said the case was the first time an industrial giant had sued academics over their research, but the prosecutors’ decision not to indict him ensured freedom of academic research.
He added that no experts have dared to speak on the issue after the group sued him.
The group also filed a civil suit demanding compensation of NT$40 million (US$1.34 million) and that Tsuang place a public notice of apology in newspapers.
The civil suit is pending in the Taipei District Court.
Formosa Plastics Group said it respected academic freedom, but that Tsuang’s research cited false data, which caused panic among residents in the area.