The wishes of residents in Yilan County, Keeling City and New Taipei City (新北市) — among which a merger has been proposed — should be respected and they should be able to approve or disagree on the plans through a referendum, Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said.
Lin made the remarks in response to a proposal which has been suggested following research carried out by the Executive Yuan on the issue of rearranging national land and administrative regions, in which Yilan County and Keelung City would be merged into the administrative region of New Taipei City.
Taiwan is small enough and the merger is unnecessary, Lin said, adding that he “personally disagrees with such a policy.”
According to Lin, competition between cities can be managed without mergers, pointing to the Japanese government’s various administrative districts — namely the division of the country into one capital, one Do — or circuit (道), two urban prefectures and 43 other prefectures — as a possible reference.
Only by preserving the unique local and cultural characteristics of several areas can national development become multi-polar, Lin said.
Grave problems will arise if the county government has little to no say in the merger plans, while the diverse stratification of Taiwanese society complicates the issue even further, Lin said, adding that the “division of administrative areas isn’t simply about who’s merging with who.”
The merger should be based on careful polling of the opinions of residents to better understand their views on the matter, Lin said.
Objective academic research into the proposed merger is also needed in order that the county government can speak for its people, Lin said, adding that the county government would commission Fo Guang University to conduct polls and related research on the matter.
Meetings that provide residents with a platform for their opinions should also be arranged, Lin said, adding that the research should be completed by the end of the year.
While some have said that the merger may be politically motivated — Yilan County is a key Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stronghold — Lin, a DPP member, said he would refrain from thinking in that way.
“I believe the central government is planning the move from the perspective of resource allocation and seeing to the needs of national infrastructure,” Lin said.
However, looking at the issue from the angle of balanced regional development, there is actually no need for the proposed merger, he added.
Tseng Kuei-jen (曾奎人), a taxi driver in Yilan, said the county has very unique customs and natural scenery, adding that he has taken many Singaporean and Hong Kong tourists around the area and they all remarked that Yilan was very pretty and welcoming.
Noting that the tourists had all commented on how different the region is from Taipei, Tseng said that should the county be merged into New Taipei City then “Yilan would no longer have autonomy and would thus lose what had made it unique.”
Chen Wei-chih (陳威志), a pharmacist, said there would be no glory for Yilan once it becomes part of the Tian Long Guo (天龍國), a term denoting wealth and lack of knowledge about the woes of real life. The derogatory term originates from the popular Japanese One Piece (海賊王) comic book series in which a group of people, called Tian Long, are given special rights and do not know the difficulties of life outside their particular area.
Chen added that its smaller population would mean that it would lose elections, which would direct the focus of development to New Taipei City and not Yilan.
“It would be impossible for the city government to actually take care of Yilan and its residents, and we would have less power and our incomes would certainly not increase,” he said.
Yang Yi-lin (楊憶林), a white-collar worker, said there is a drastic difference between the simple personalities of Yilan’s residents and that of the metropolitan areas, adding that it would be terrible to contemplate what she would say when people asked her where she came from should the proposed merger go ahead.