Protesters dig in against Taiwan mining rules – by Chris Horton (Nikkei Asian Review – July 25, 2017)

Aborigines and environmentalists attack Asia Cement rights extension

TAIPEI — Outside a metro station in Taiwan’s capital, musician Nabu Husungan Istanda sits shirtless in his wheelchair, smoking a cigarette while chewing betel nut. The evening traffic zips by, while young Taiwanese of both indigenous and Chinese ancestry laugh and dance arm-in-arm in a circle next to a protest site they are occupying.

Aboriginal Taiwanese and environmental activists have found themselves opposed on other issues, including development and hunting rights, but are fighting together against a mine producing materials for cement in Taroko Gorge, one of the country’s most famous scenic areas.

“We didn’t know any of these young people before, now we’re working together,” said Nabu, an ethnic Bunun. “We’ve become friends.” The new friends were brought together by a 20-year extension of mining rights held by Asia Cement, one of the country’s largest cement producers, in Sincheng Township, Hualien County, at the mouth of Taroko National Park.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Taipei on June 25, marching from the Executive Yuan parliament building to the Presidential Office to protest the extension, which was given without public consultation. Asia Cement, a unit of the Far Eastern Group conglomerate, was not required to conduct an environmental impact assessment.

The size of the crowd was largely due to the death of documentary maker Chi Po-lin earlier in the month in a helicopter crash. Chi directed the award-winning 2013 film “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above,” in which he highlighted Taiwan’s beautiful landscape, as well as its environmental degradation.

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