Over 600 academics petition for demolition of beach resort

Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) About 600 academics have signed a petition calling for the government to order the demolition of a controversial beach resort in Taitung County, eastern Taiwan, environmentalists said Wednesday. A total of 636 academics have joined the signature drive since it was launched Nov. 14, including former Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh, according to the Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan group, organizer of the petition. "Despite remarks by Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan that the Miramar Resort project on Shanyuan Bay is illegal based on court rulings, the Taitung county government has said it will nonetheless conduct another environmental assessment Nov. 29," the group said. "The Miramar Resort project deals a serious blow to the rule of law in Taiwan," said Tai Hsing-sheng, an associate professor at National Dong Hwa University in Hualien, eastern Taiwan. Urging the government to order the dismantling of the resort, Tai said that it "creates a crisis not only for eastern Taiwan but for the overall development of the country." The resort project is located near traditional land of the indigenous people of the area, said David Chang, a professor emeritus at National Taiwan University's Department of Geography. "Personally I'm not against building hotels, but it is not sensible to build them on beaches," said Chang, a former member of the county government's environmental assessment committee. The Miramar Resort project is a landmark case in the history of environmental assessments in Taiwan, said Tu Wen-ling, an associate professor of the Department of Public Administration at National Chengchi University. It is sad to see the Taitung county government attempting to legalize the project by initiating another environmental assessment after an earlier one has been ruled as flawed, Tu added. Chu Ying-chou, general manager of Miramar Resort, responded that demolition is not in the best interests of Taitung's residents and called for oversight instead of opposition. The controversy dates back to 2006, when environmental groups called on the Taitung county government to assess the environmental impact of the resort project after the developer sought to make a massive expansion once the original smaller development plan had been approved. In 2008, the county government conditionally approved its assessment, which prompted environmentalists to file lawsuits against the company, calling the construction license and assessment results invalid. The High Administrative Court in 2010 ruled the construction license invalid and ordered the county government to halt the development. The Supreme Administrative Court in January, 2012 ruled that there were irregularities in the county government's 2008 environmental impact assessment approval because some members on the assessment committee were themselves county government officials. Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said at the Legislative Yuan in October this year that the resort should be torn down before another environmental assessment is carried out because the construction is illegal. (By Wei Yun-lin and Scully Hsiao)