In a move reminiscent of the 24-day occupation of the Legislative Yuan, opponents of a windmill park in Miaoli County on Wednesday occupied the inner court of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Students occupied a large part of the legislative compound from March 18 to April 10 in protest against the ruling Kuomintang’s efforts for a quick passage of the trade-in-services pact with China.
Around 10 a.m. Wednesday, about 20 members of an action group in the Miaoli County township of Yuanli entered the MOEA through the main gate. They oppose the construction of modern windmills too close to an inhabited area because of alleged noise and other pollution. The distance in this case was less than 250 meters, they said.
The protesters accused the MOEA of having twice extended a permit for the construction by Germany’s InfraVest Wind Power Group without previous consultation with the residents.
In another reminder of the recent student protests, the Black Island Nation Youth Front called on its members to “walk by” the MOEA. The method of protest was used repeatedly during student protests against a television station, lawmakers and the police in order to avoid legislation requiring official applications for static protest rallies.
After a couple of hours under the hot sun, the protest association’s vice chairman, Yeh Ting-kuei, reportedly fainted and was transported to a nearby hospital.
A government official came out to talk to the protesters, but as he failed to make any promises, the talks ended unsuccessfully. Police were expected to take action against the sit-in.
Online, the new protest action sparked a heated debate, with some commentators attacking the protesters for opposing a green form of energy, while others said the only problem was that government and business had neglected basic experience from overseas, where most new windmills were built at a distance from homes sufficient to avoid wind turbine syndrome.
Members of the Yuanli action group have occupied the construction site for more than 6,000 hours or for more than a year, reports said. They occasionally staged protests outside the MOEA and in front of the Presidential Office Building. A first attempt to occupy the MOEA last January ended quickly after police expelled them.
InfraVest reportedly promised that its windmills would be built at a distance of three to five times the length of the turbine’s blades away from the homes. However, nine of the 14 turbines in Yuanli were closer than that distance, causing complaints of insomnia and headaches from residents.
In a separate development, prosecutors were expected to start questioning suspects in the April 11 siege of the Zhongzheng First Precinct police station in Taipei on Thursday, reports said.
Groups of students and activists angry at the removal of Professor Tsay Ting-kuei’s Taiwan Referendum Association from the sidewalk outside the Legislative Yuan besieged the precinct station for hours, accusing local police chief Fang Yang-ning of having violated the Constitution by cutting short the TRA’s permission to protest at the original site.
The siege ended after Fang apologized and promised to step down, but Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin later announced he would not accept the police officer’s resignation until an investigation had found problems with his handling of the case.
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