A poll released this week showed that 82 percent of Keelung residents believe that a merger either with New Taipei City (新北市) or Taipei City would be beneficial to the city’s development, with 70 percent supporting a merger first with New Taipei City in the run-up to a merger of the three cities.
The survey, conducted by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Chang Chien-hua (張堅華), KMT Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥) and former National Taiwan Ocean University president Lee Kuo-tien (李國添), showed that 72 percent of respondents agreed that the Keelung City Government should appeal to the central government to merge the three cities.
A total of 70 percent favored a merger with New Taipei City first if such a move would facilitate the merger of the three cities into one administrative region; 19.3 percent of respondents disagreed with the idea.
Seventy-one percent of respondents said they were “not confident” or “not very confident” that Keelung would be able to maintain its current status.
Chang said Keelung is just a small exclave in northern Taiwan, and a merger with New Taipei City would bring more benefits than setbacks, especially in terms of city planning, transportation and tourism.
Keelung has few resources, lacks a general city plan and ranks low in government hierarchy, but combining the city with Taipei would create a better environment and regional opportunities, Lee and Chiu said, adding that stringing together the coastal tourism spots of northern Taiwan would make it a regional tourism hotspot.
However, KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), from a constituency in Keelung, advised caution, saying he was concerned about the city’s future development.
“What is Keelung, what do we want it to be? These are questions we must ask,” Hsieh said.
“A comprehensive analysis of the pros and cons of the merger should also be made,” he said.
Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai (黃景泰) agreed, saying that providing residents with a detailed explanation of future plans for the city and letting them make the final decision is a responsible way of doing things.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Deputy Secretary-General Lin You-chang (林右昌) said the issue is very important to Keelung and the city government should clearly explain which option would boost the city’s infrastructure and budget.
The poll was conducted via telephone, with 1,085 valid calls and 7.95 percent refusing the calls. It had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Keelung netizens said the poll sample was too small to adequately reflect the public will.
If the merger is a “real issue,” the city government should hold public hearings to flesh out the idea, one netizen said.
A referendum on the issue with people who are fully familiar with the issue and are aware of what is at risk is the only way for the process to truly reflect the public’s will, the netizen said.