Taiwan Church News
March 11-17, 2013
At least 220,000 take part in March 9 anti-nuclear protest rally across Taiwan
Reported by staff reporters
Written by Lydia Ma
The March 9 anti-nuclear protest rally that took place simultaneously in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Taitung began at 2:00 p.m. It is estimated that at least 22,000 people took to the streets to protest the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and support the abolition of nuclear energy. This rally attracted more participants than all previous anti-nuclear rallies. In Taipei, the rally began in front of the Presidential Palace on Ketagalan Boulevard amid the sound of a nuclear alarm siren. An anti-nuclear program took place on Ketagalan Boulevard in the aftermath of the rally and many protestors stayed behind to watch.
The PCT General Assembly was one of the sponsors of this rally and, with some coordination from local presbyteries, many of its parishioners and clergy members attended the rally. Furthermore, students and professors from PCT institutions such as Taiwan Theological College and Seminary and Tainan Theological College and Seminary also took part in this rally with much enthusiasm.
During the rally in Taipei, PCT General Secretary Andrew Chang pointed out that the PCT had issued an anti-nuclear declaration in 1992. According to this declaration, the PCT supports abolishing nuclear energy because it is not 100% safe and its risks are too great. Chang added that what happened in Fukushima should be taken as an object lesson. For these reason, the PCT opposes the government’s nuclear energy policies. Its opposition is also based on its affection for the land of Taiwan, its love for Taiwanese people, and its faith in God. For these reasons, the PCT believes that the government should never develop nuclear energy.
PCT Associate General Secretary Lyim Hong-tiong said during the rally that President Ma should stop building the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant immediately because of insurmountable problems associated with the storage of nuclear wastes and because Taiwan sits along a seismic belt. Lyim added that though energy policies and whether the government should use nuclear energy are political issues, they are also matters affecting people’s lives too. For this reason, he cautioned churches against compartmentalizing political issues as though they didn’t affect other life issues because doing so would harm the Christian convictions of the church.
The rally in Kaohsiung was attended by 70,000 people who braved the blistering sun in the middle of the day. The procession route was 3 km long and a special program was planned after the march. Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Shoushan presbyteries encouraged their parishioners to attend by helping local churches rent buses that would transport parishioners to the venue. The protest march in southern Taiwan began at the Kaohsiung Aouzihdi Forest Park in Zuoying, where the masses were told to convene. The crowd was sorted into 6 groups before departure. Since nuclear energy is an issue that will affect future generations, many protesters brought their young children along for this protest. Furthermore, storeowners who weren’t able to join the rally because of work posted big anti-nuclear signs and slogans on their storefronts.
PCT’s Tainan Presbytery and Tainan Seminary were part of the “City of Tainan” group. Tainan Presbytery arranged for buses to pick up parishioners at their own churches and drop them off at Aouzihdi Park. Tainan Presbytery’s Church and Society Committee Division Secretary Soong Hsin-hsi reported that more than 500 people from the presbytery had attended the event, but many new people had also registered at the last minute. He said that nuclear energy policies needed to be followed closely because Taiwan cannot afford even one nuclear spill as there is nowhere else to escape.
Kaohsiung, Shoushan, and Pingtung presbyteries also encouraged their parishioners to attend. These presbyteries were included in the “Kaohsiung Anti-Nuclear” group. Parishioners in that group raised the PCT flag and their own presbytery’s banner very high during the rally as a sign of their support for Taiwan.
In central Taiwan, the rally that took place in Taichung Citizen’s Square drew a crowd of 30,000. This number is reportedly a historic high for central Taiwan because there has never been so much citizen participation on a social issue. The crowd was divided into the following groups: Parents and Kids Group, Creativity Group, NGO Group, Campus Group, LGBT Group, and Citizen Group. Parishioners from Taichung, Changhua, Chiayi, Central Bunun, Tsou, and Sediq presbyteries were part of the NGO Group. In total, more than 300 parishioners attended the rally in Taichung.
In eastern Taiwan, the rally took place in Taitung Hsinsheng Park and approximately 3,000 people attended this protest rally. The number of people that took to the streets was a also a historic high for Taitung. Parishioners from many Taiwanese and indigenous churches took part in this event, especially parishioners from East Coast, Amis, Bunun, East Paiwan, and Taroko presbyteries. Furthermore, many students from Yushan Theological College and Seminary also took part in the rally. In total, more than 500 clergy and parishioners attended the rally.
For east coast residents, some of the motives for holding this protest rally are to demand that the government review its nuclear energy policies and take into serious account Taitung residents’ struggle and opposition when it comes to nuclear waste storage. Taitung Kengsheng Presbyterian Church pastor Rev. Liu Shih-chun spoke on behalf of Taitung churches by underscoring that the PCT has always felt a close connection with the land since its inception in 1865 when the Gospel was preached in Taiwan. For this reason, it cannot stay on the sidelines when the government decides to develop something as dangerous as nuclear energy. The PCT hopes that it can live out its statement of faith and be faithful a steward of God’s creation by taking part in this protest rally.
PCT was a visible NGO group at the March 9 protest rally. Photo by Chiou Kuo-rong.