More than 2,000 people, including many dressed in traditional Aboriginal garb, marched through the streets of Taipei yesterday afternoon protesting the controversial Miramar Resort Village construction project on Taitung County’s Shanyuan Beach (杉原沙灘).
The parade, initiated by an alliance of more than 40 civic groups and Aboriginal tribes from across the nation, was held to protest the development project, which has been ruled invalid more than once by the Supreme Administrative Court, but still gained approval at a local environmental impact assessment meeting last year and is scheduled to go into operation this year.
The march was titled “Don’t say goodbye to the eastern coastline,” and the protesters expressed concern that the Miramar case would set an example for other development projects along the eastern coastline and cause irreversible damage to the environment.
The crowd in Taipei was joined by a group of people that had marched for 17 days from Taitung to Taipei.
At the head of the parade was an Amis bamboo raft with a banner that read “Return our domain to us,” carried by 20 men, to express their hope to live in harmony with nature.
The protesters said the hand-made raft represents the idea of taking “just enough” from nature instead of abusing and exhausting natural resources.
“Aborigines do not have a specific life philosophy, but they do feel strongly connected to the land,” Aboriginal folk singer Panai said. “Please feel our affection for the land. This is what residents in Taipei have lost.”
The parade marched through the streets of Taipei, singing an Aboriginal verse signifying waves and the ocean in response to the chanting of Aboriginal folk singer Nabu.
They shouted demands such as “tear down the Miramar, protect the eastern coastline,” “protect our homeland” and “we don’t want cement dumped on the beach.”
The protesters arrived at the Miramar Garden Taipei (美麗信花園酒店), a hotel owned by the same corporation as the Miramar Resort Village in Taitung, and the crowd waved silver grass, mimicking a ritual aimed at expelling evil spirits and purifying the heart.
Reaching Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, the protesters held hands and performed an Amis harvest festival dance.
The leader of the walking group, Lai Ching-lung (賴進龍), born in the Malan Tribe of Taitung, walked the whole journey to Taipei barefoot.
He said the journey had been exhausting, but while walking through the many tribes along the way, he felt the significance of bringing their message of protecting traditions and the environment to the Presidential Office.
“I hate that the government is treating us like this. It is using inappropriate measures to take our land and ocean from us.” Lai said, adding: “The coast is where the Amis used to collect food and live. Now we are concerned that the ocean will be polluted and destroyed by development projects.”