This article comes from the Taipei Times

Tuesday, March 13th, 2001

Aborigines clash with cement
firm over land

LAND MOVEMENT: A peaceful protest against
Asia Cement turned ugly yesterday, with violent
clashes and one company spokesman promising
to kill demonstrators
By Chuang Chi-ting

A peaceful protest turned ugly yesterday after a
group of Taroko farmers demonstrated against Asia Cement Co's
plant in Hualien to demand the return of the factory's land to them.

Roughly 100 of Asia Cement's employees were on hand to greet the
40 protesters.

The demonstration started peacefully, with the Taroko farmers
planting tree seedlings near the plant's perimeter and later
performing rites.

But after a tense three-hour standoff with some pushing and
shoving, the demonstrators broke through barbed-wire fences and
forced their way into the rear of the plant's compound.

               One Asia Cement official even vowed to kill the
               Taroko farmers.

               "There will definitely be bloodshed next time. We'll
               kill you one by one," promised Chou Wei-kuen
               (©Pºû±X), a company spokesman, after the group
               stormed the gates.

               Asia Cement employees tried to bar the protesters
               from entering, which resulted in a dozen injuries to
               both demonstrators and Asia Cement workers.

Inside the plant's compound, the Taroko farmers planted trees and
seeds and left signs claiming their rights to the land on which Asia
Cement operates. They were unable to reach the mining area of the
factory, but vowed to try again soon with more people at their side.

The violent clashes ended when police forces restored order.

"Why can't I farm here on the lands of our ancestors?" said Libihe
Luback, a short, elderly Taroko woman before the demonstration
turned into a scuffle.

Last year, a local court ruled that the Taroko people had the right
farm the land where Asian Cement's factory sits, but the company's
operations continue to this day.

"I'm sad ... we cannot get back our lands, and the lands now are not
good for farming with all the rocks laid there," said Labai Wubutz, a
70-year-old Taroko woman.

Although Asia Cement has refused to comply with the court's ruling,
no government agency has stepped in to enforce the order.

The aboriginal landowners jointly notified Asia Cement of their
decision to reclaim the land in a March 6 letter in the hope that the
company would prepare itself to hand over the property by the
March 12 deadline.

Legislators Pa Yen Ta Lu and Walis-Pelin said they have thrown
their full support behind the aboriginal "land reclamation" drive and
will help landowners to claim compensation from Asia Cement for
the company's occupation of the land over the past 27 years.

After the KMT arrived on Taiwan in 1947, they took over the lands
indigenous people had farmed for centuries, at the time offering
them back some parts of the land.

Later, regulations were established that stipulated Aborigines could
regain control of lands they had previously farmed for at least 10

During that time, indigenous farmers' lands were owned by the
government and administered by local village administrations

But in the case of the Taroko farmers, the land was rented by the
Hsiuling (¨qªL) village administration to Asia Cement.

The cement factory claims the farmers gave up their rights to the
property, and says documents have been filed to support the
company's claim.

However, available copies of these documents and interviews with
Taroko farmers suggest that none of them had ever agreed to give
up control of the land.

Land use rights were in the hands of the Taroko and Asia Cement
until the Hsiuling administration terminated the company's contract
in 1995.

The Taroko farmers on Friday staged a protest demanding that the
company remove surrounding fences, buildings and machines from
the site before March 12.


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