Taiwan environmentalists clash with police over old camphor tree

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Environmentalists clashed with police Sunday as workers removed the last old camphor tree from the grounds of Taipei’s former Sungshan Cigarette Factory to make way for a sports stadium.
Protests against the move began Friday morning, when about a dozen neighborhood residents and environmentalists occupied the area near the corner of Chunghsiao East Road and Kuangfu South Road, slated to house the Taipei Dome stadium.
On Saturday evening, police removed one protester who spent 27 hours in the tree. The man was Calvin Wen, a former Green Party Taiwan official who is the group’s candidate for a legislative by-election on March 28.
Green Party secretary-general Pan Han-sheng said the group was still fighting the removal of the tree through the courts, but the city government completely neglected this fact and was going ahead with its action all the same, trying to create a fait accompli.
The last thing the capital needed was a new sports stadium 2 kilometers from another one, Pan said, referring to the Taipei Arena. The environmentalists want the site of the old cigarette factory to be turned into a city park instead of the 40,000-seat baseball stadium planned for the area.
Mayor Hau Lung-pin, a former Environmental Protection Administration director, was no longer an environmentalist but a tree killer, Pan said.
The Green Party official also criticized the business deal behind the sports stadium, saying the city government had agreed to buy back the stadium if it lost money, thus giving the operator a free ride in addition to 50-year rent concessions.
Pan said the environmentalists would not stop their protests just because the last tree had been taken away.