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Beidou protestors cleared in action against Taipower
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-08 11:20 AM
The Changhua District Court handed down a verdict of not guilty for county councilors and area residents who staged a protest in 2011 against Taipower’s plan to erect towers for 345KV high-voltage power lines through Beidou Township in Changhua County. The court’s ruling likened Taipower’s attempt to push the lines through in the face of opposition from local residents to the use of tanks against protestors in Beijing’s Tienanmen Square, saying that Taipower should be condemned for abusing its power and wealth to intimidate the local population.

Trial judge Chen Yi-chung, said the efforts of the people to protect their interests against Taipower were like "a mantis trying to stop an automobile." He said the actions of individuals in trying to prevent Taipower vehicles from entering construction sites by blocking their path represented peaceful behavior and not violent coercion, Chen noted that Taipower failed to respect prior agreements reached through democratic processes, and the protestors should not be viewed as enemies of the power company, thus the defendants in the case were not guilty of a crime.

Taipower sparked panic among the residents of Beidou when it began preparations for setting up towers for high-voltage lines through the township in early 2011. The local Self-Help Association entered hasty negotiations with Taipower, eventually reaching an agreement that the power company would not enter the area without first obtaining permission to use county access roads to flood control areas.

When Taipower construction vehicles showed up at 10am on March 4 at the flood control area they found hundreds of people already on the scene including county councilor Li Chun-yu, Taiwanese Presbyterian Church pastor Chou Ming-wen and other local figures. Some protestors lay down in front of vehicles while others attached themselves to vehicles with chains. Finding its workers in a standoff, Taipower withdrew the vehicles and went to court over the dispute.

Li said the judge’s ruling is belated justice for the people of Beidou. He noted that residents had been forced to take to the streets to defend their homes and had appeared in court at least twenty times over the past three years to fight for their rights against Taipower.

Yang Shih-ming, a spokesperson from Taipower’s Taichung District Public Relations Office, said Taipower has already mapped out an alternate route for the power lines and in the interests of harmony with local citizens does not plan to appeal the court’s verdict.

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