In Taiwan, the Truku aborigines fight against the cement maker Asia Cement

It is a whole section of mountain that has been leveled for half a century. We had to dig with explosives, deforest. Then day after day, backhoes and trucks transported the granite to the factories below, which turned it into cement. The giant quarry of Asia Cement, the second largest Taiwanese producer, is now only 220 meters above sea level, 600 meters less than in 1973. It overlooks the town of Hsin -cheng, clusters of houses clumped to the road that leads to Taroko Gorge, now a national park, a few hundred meters from the east coast of Taiwan, not far from Hualien. Its 2,000 or so inhabitants are mostly Truku, one of the 16 Austronesian-speaking aboriginal tribes officially recognized in Taiwan.

The Truku are known to have opposed fierce resistance to the Japanese colonizers of Taiwan (1895-1945) who had to cut a road in the rock to transport weapons during the war in 1914 to dislodge them from their grandiose forests. Since the 1990s, the Truku have been engaged in a long-term fight against Asia Cement, which they accuse, along with the environmental activists who support them, of having benefited from privileges for the extension of its mining concession by twenty. years, for the first time in 1997, at the time of industrial development at a rapid pace, then in 2017.

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This renewal was then granted by the Taiwanese Ministry of the Economy for twenty years, until 2037, without an environmental impact study, on the pretext that the quarry had been opened before it was an obligation. It also ignored the Basic Law on Aboriginal Peoples, adopted in 2005, which provides for consultation with the original population. The decision provoked an outcry in environmental defense circles and led to legal action by residents against the cement company. After three years of proceedings, the Supreme Court severely dismissed on appeal, on September 16, Asia Cement: it did not “Given the opportunity to residents to express their opinion on the extension of the concession”, while the Ministry of the Economy failed to take into account “Changes in environmental legislation, the depletion of natural resources and the public interest”.

“Four centuries of pain”

The cement company was finally authorized by the Ministry of the Economy, still under a mining code dating from the 1930s, to continue its operations while it submitted a new request for extension and “Gathered the documents proving that he carried out consultations”. If they salute the battle won in court on September 16, the Truku and the NGOs know that the victory is far from achieved: “It’s a bit like a bully in a class who gets kicked out of high school because he brutalizes his classmates, but since he made a request to stay, well he can continue to stay in class and get drunk!” “, commented on Facebook Tsai Yui-chi, of the Taiwanese NGO Citizen of the Earth Taiwan, very involved in the Asia Cement case. From September 23, a demonstration took place in front of the seat of government in Taipei, to reiterate the expectations of the 2,000 residents in order to clarify the conditions of land cession in the past, to assess the geological state of the mining area. and to propose a relevant environmental reconversion plan for the tribe.

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In Taiwan, the Truku aborigines fight against the cement maker Asia Cement