The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday approved the Taoyuan County Government’s application for an administrative upgrade to a special municipality.
However, Atayal Aboriginal residents in the county are worried about the negative impact of an upgrade on their culture, economy and autonomy.
“After a thorough discussion during a meeting to review the application submitted by the Taoyuan County Government for an administrative change, all participants in the meeting have unanimously agreed that said county should be granted the status of a special municipality,” Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said at a news conference immediately after the meeting at the ministry’s headquarters yesterday afternoon.
“We will refer the conclusion to the Executive Yuan for final approval, and the change will take effect on Dec. 25, 2014, should the Executive Yuan approve it,” Chien said.
Chien said Taoyuan County had met all the criteria to become a special municipality, including a population of more than 1.25 million. In addition, it has the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project that aims to develop the area surrounding Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport into a free-trade zone with an industrial park that provides easy access to transportation facilities, such as the airport and the nearby Port of Taipei, Chen said.
“Taoyuan County has been ranked No. 1 in terms of industrial production value across the country for nine consecutive years, and garners the second-largest amount in tax collections after Taipei,” Chien said.
“None of the participants in the meeting could find a reason to object to the county’s application for an administrative change,” Chien added.
After becoming a special municipality, Taoyuan County would enjoy greater autonomy and a larger budget.
However, it would also take on more responsibilities.
“For instance, the central government currently finances state-run high schools and hospitals in Taoyuan County, but when it becomes a special municipality, it has to take responsibility for the financing of these facilities,” the deputy minister added.
Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚), who also attended the meeting, thanked the ministry for its decision before leaving the ministry building.
“I am thankful to the ministry for making the decision, and I will ensure that Taoyuan is well prepared before December, 2014, when the change takes effect,” he told reporters.
However, despite promising to take over the Department of Health-run Taoyuan Hospital, Wu said that “it may be a better idea for a more professional medical team — such as the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, the Veterans’ General Hospital or the National Taiwan University Hospital — to take over facility to ensure quality standards.”
While the county government welcomes the ministry’s decision, the county’s Atayal Aborigines are reluctant to embrace it because they fear the decision might affect their autonomy.
“After the administrative change, Fusing Township [復興] — a predominantly Atayal township and an officially designated Aboriginal township — would become merely a district in the special municipality,” Aboriginal rights advocate Omi Wilang, a native Atayal resident of Fusing Township, told the Taipei Times by telephone.
“That means the post of head of Fusing District would no longer be required to be filled by an Aboriginal, and it would be the future city government that decides how the district is to develop economically and culturally,” Omi Wilang said.