More than 96 percent of residents in Houlong Township (後龍), Miaoli County, are opposed to a build-own-operate (BOO) project initiated by the county government to build a funeral facilities park, results of an opinion poll released yesterday showed.
“In the official report submitted to a review committee about the funeral facilities park project, the Miaoli County Government claims that locals did not express any concern — that is a lie,” National United University lecturer Cheng Shu-min (鄭淑敏) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.
Citing the results of an opinion poll she conducted — with more than 1,200 valid responses collected — of Houlong residents, as many as 96 percent of the respondents are opposed to the project.
“We want to tell the Miaoli County Government and the corporation investing in this project that this is what the locals really think,” she said.
Kuo Kuei-hui (郭貴輝), chief of Longkeng Borough (龍坑), which is one of the five communities that would be effected by the project, said residents were never invited to attend meetings prior to the county approving the project.
“We weren’t notified about the first meeting in 2008. Those who attended that meeting weren’t our people, I don’t know who they were,” Kuo said.
“It was after the meeting had started that we heard about it and we rushed to the meeting venue, but the police stopped us and did not allow us to go inside,” Kao said.
There were a few other meetings that followed, but local residents were never invited, Kuo said.
“The first time we were officially notified about the project was earlier this year, when it was already decided upon, and the company investing in the project wanted to explain to us the construction,” he said.
Liao Pen-chuan (廖本全), a professor at National Taipei University’s Department of Real Estate and Built Environment and a long-term advocate of the movement for justice in land use, said the project was unnecessary and inappropriate.
“Just like all other controversial development projects around the country, the funeral facilities project in Houlong is unnecessary and inappropriate. It disregards local residents’ opinions, the decisionmaking process is non-transparent and it’s a game in which the county government is both the referee and player,” Liao said.
The park was unnecessary and inappropriate because it would be less than 1km from a county-run cemetery, he said, adding that there are already two crematoriums in service in the county — which are only being used to 24 percent and 39 percent capacity.
“Obviously, there’s no need for the new funeral facilities park — including a cemetery and crematorium — that Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) said would be the largest in Southeast Asia,” Liao said.
He said it was not a level playing field either, since it was the county government that initiated the project, the county government picked the private-sector partner and the county government’s review committee approved the project.