Protesters against Taiwan beach hotel march through capital

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Hundreds of protesters marched through the rainy streets of Taipei Saturday to express their opposition against the construction of the Miramar Resort Village on a Taitung County beach.
The project, known as Meiliwan or ‘Beautiful Bay’ in Mandarin, stands already nearly completed on the sparsely populated region’s Shanyuan Beach, but has incurred widespread opposition over its disregard for the environment.
The hotel is illegal and should be torn down, the protesters said, since it will destroy the ecosystem, including vegetation on the beach and coral close to the coastline.
Even though courts ruled twice that work on the project should be stopped, construction continued, with the Taitung County Government trying to legalize it and the operators announcing it could be open for business this summer, reports said.
The opponents also criticized the fact that the public beach would be turned into the private property of the Taipei-based group building the resort. The group also owns a major shopping complex with a Ferris wheel in the capital as well as several hotels and a movie theater chain.
A total of 20 groups walked from the site of the hotel to Taipei, covering a distance of 261 kilometers in 17 days.
In the capital, they were joined by hundreds of protesters to march a final stretch of 4.2 kilometers from the shopping district on Taipei’s east side to Ketagalan Boulevard, the wide tree-lined avenue in front of the Presidential Office Building, where they were planning to attend a concert in the evening and to spend the night.
The protesters disputed claims by the Taitung County Government that the hotel would create jobs for the local population, and that opponents were mostly radical environmentalists based in Taipei. There is no need to create divisions between Taitung people and other Taiwanese, because the beach belongs to everybody, not to the government or to Big Business, marchers said.
Opponents of the Miramar project have been joined by several celebrities, some of them belonging to indigenous peoples, a significant proportion of the population of Taitung County. Umin Boya, star of the Taiwan hit movie “Seediq Bale,” also joined the protest to express his concern about the threat to the environment.
Commentators have warned that if the hotel is declared legal and allowed to operate, it could set a precedent for other projects detrimental to the environment. The construction of a new highway between Suao in Yilan County and Hualien has also caused strong opposition.