Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation owns 29 plots of land in a geologically sensitive area in Taipei, and it might have exchanged benefits with a private firm during its acquisition of the land, an environmentalist said yesterday.
A dispute is raging between environmental groups, including Treasure Our Land, Taiwan — a nongovernmental organization — and Tzu Chi over the foundation’s request to set up a logistics center and a factory on a 4.4-hectare plot of land in Neihu District (內湖).
Treasure Our Land, Taiwan secretary-general Lin Tzu-lin (林子凌) said that Tzu Chi owns 29 plots of land in the geologically sensitive area, posting a chart on Facebook purporting to show the land owned by Tzu Chi and saying 15 plots were purchased by the foundation from 1997 to 2003, while 14 were donated.
The donor was Shuang-Bang Industrial Corp general manager Hsu Yu-chuan (許瑜娟), Lin said, adding that she is on the foundation’s list of honorary directors.
Shuang-Bang Industrial is a subsidiary of Singtex Industrial Co Ltd, which works with the foundation to manufacture blankets and clothes by processing recycled plastic bottles, Lin said.
The plots of land account for 14.8 of the 16.3 hectares owned by Tzu Chi in the protected area and consist mainly of forests, ponds and farmland, the chart shows.
The plots have a combined market value of more than NT$1.3 billion (US$41.2 million), according to the chart.
Lin said that Tzu Chi was unconcerned about the Lincoln Mansions landslide in New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止) in 1997, which killed 28 people.
Just four days after the disaster, the foundation bought three plots of land in the area believed to contain dip slopes — which were blamed for the landslide — she said.
Furthermore, a deserted mine cuts through the area, making it a geologically sensitive zone, Lin said.
Lin said that Shuang-Bang Industrial used the land as a tax shelter and said the foundation should reveal the reasons behind its purchases, its relationship with Hsu and whether Hsu was simply a proxy to allow the transactions.
Hsu denied the accusations, saying that she is not affiliated with Tzu Chi and she has never owned property in the protected area.
She said Shuang-Bang and Singtex are two separate firms and she did not know the details of the dealings between Singtex and Tzu Chi.
“How could there have been so many coincidences?” Lin said in response. “For the same site and project, we have one Tzu Chi director named Hsu Yu-chuan. The person who donated the land is also called Hsu Yu-chuan, and the general manager of its business partner happens to have the name Hsu Yu-chuan.”
“Since the Agricultural Development Act (農業發展條例) prohibits a foundation constituted as a juristic person to purchase farmland, Hsu stepped in to buy the land and donated it to Tzu Chi,” Lin said.
She said assurances that Shuang-Bang is not affiliated with Singtex contradicts information on Singtex’s Web site and urged Hsu to prove that she is not on Tzu Chi’s board of directors and did not donate the land.
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