Protesting Formosa Chemicals employees clash with police

A group of employees of Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp.'s (??) Changhua plant staged a protest in front of the Changhua county government building Thursday and clashed with police when they tried to break through a police cordon.

More than 1,000 workers from the plant surrounded the Changhua county government building again after a similar rally staged earlier in the week, expressing their anger about a rejection by the county authorities to extend permits for operations of the plant's three power generators by a deadline of Sept. 28.

Without the renewed operating permits, the plant is expected to completely shut down Oct. 8, which will leave the workers out of their jobs.

The protesters demanded to meet Changhua Magistrate Wei Ming-ku (???), and many of them attempted to break through the police cordon, clashing with police and leaving some of them injured.

According to county authorities, the sulfur content in the bituminous coal used by the Changhua plant's power generators is 1.2 percent, higher than the 0.84 percent-0.87 percent it had promised to maintain.

The county had repeatedly asked the company to improve the situation by the Sept. 28 deadline, and accused it of failing to meet its promise.

However, the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG), one of the largest conglomerates in Taiwan, which owns Formosa Chemicals, said at the end of last month that the Changhua plant has not received a fine for causing excessive pollution since 2010.

The FPG accused the Changhua county government of forcing the plant to shut down in order to pave the way for an urban planning project. The group has urged the Changhua county government to explain why it refused to allow the plant to extend the operations of its power generators.

In response to the rally Thursday, Wei came out to meet the protesters, saying that the Cabinet very much cares about the livelihood of the plant's workers. Wei urged the protesting workers to trust him, saying the central government will try hard to protect them with the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and the Environmental Protection Agency expected to come up with a proposal to governing air pollution to balance between the industrial development and environmental cause.

The ministry said earlier in the week only that the company and the protesters should sit down with the county government and find a solution.

Despite Wei's presence, the protesters remained unconvinced, and continued their rally in front of the county government hall, saying that unless Wei presents a solution to reverse the plant shutdown, they will not leave.

The plant in Changhua specializes in the production of select artificial fibers, including nylon and rayon.

Hurt by escalating competition from China, the Changhua plant is the only production site of Formosa Chemicals that is not profitable, having lost almost NT$1.7 billion (US$54.14 million) over the past five years.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel