Taiwan is an island with high population density that has experienced rapid economic growth over the last decades. This chapter describes environmental conflicts related to petrochemical products, electricity from coal fired power plants (CFPP), nuclear power plants (NPP) and disposal of nuclear waste, hydropower, irrigation water for agricultural products, windmill’s energy, titanium and electronic parts. The environmental movement in Taiwan is to some extent explained by changes in the internal politics of the island (with an increasing democracy after the end of martial law in 1987). Environmentalists have managed to use the ebbs and flows of electoral politics to win some of their conflicts. But it is also explained as a response to the challenges faced because of pollution and damage, and by the influence of outside events such as the Fukushima disaster. The rate of success in stopping damaging investment projects is higher in Taiwan than in many other countries.


Taiwan is an island with only about 23 million inhabitants and 36,000 km2; therefore, it has a very high population density. It has experienced rapid economic growth over the last decades, with the concomitant increase in the social metabolism in terms of energy and material flows. New industrial equipment (nuclear power plants, petrochemical refineries and other infrastructures such as dams and highways) encounter opposition. This chapter describes and comments on environmental conflicts having to do with electricity production, industrial waste and pollution, and also land and water grabbing. I also include a harrowing case of “working-class” environmentalism involving many women who worked for the Radio Corporation of America and suffered cancer.

There has been an environmental movement in Taiwan in the context of a political system that has alternated long periods of strong authoritarianism (associated with the Kuomintang political party and its military traditions) with periods where the opposition to the Kuomintang has held the government. Martial law was not lifted until 1987. Early environmental conflicts since the 1980s are listed in Ming-sho Ho's outstanding study (2011) which covers the ebbs and flows of environmentalism in Taiwan until 2004 according to the changing political opportunities for grassroots opposition. His later article (2014) studies the anti-nuclear movement. The early conflicts mentioned by Ming-sho Ho are as follows.

  • Sunko Protest (1982–86)

  • Lukang Anti-DuPont Movement (1986–87)

  • Houchin Protest (1987–90)

  • Linyuan Incident (1988)

  • Meinung Anti-Dam Movement (1992–2000)

  • Tashe Incident (1993)

  • Makao National Park Controversy (2000‒)

  • Anti-Binnan Movement (1994‒)

  • Suao-Hualien Highway Controversy (2003‒)

  • Anti-nuclear Movement (1988‒)

  • Anti-Bayer Movement (1996–98)

Environmental groups have existed for 30 years, both with a conservationist orientation and with an environmental justice orientation. Some conflicts (such as the “Kuokang fiasco” and the “Anti-Meinung dam”) combine both aspects. TEPU (Taiwan Environmental Protection Union), an active civil society body, was formed by a group of academics in 1987 within months of martial law being lifted (Hsiao et al. 1995). Outside events such as the Fukushima disaster of 2011 have also had much influence. Therefore, Taiwan's environmental movements p. 93should really be understood not only in terms of how internal political changes open up political opportunities for social mobilization but also as part of a world movement for environmental justice. Impressively, large investments involving billions of dollars have been contested and have sometimes been discarded, even after completion.

Map of Taiwan with the cases considered in this chapter, classified between water, nuclear, industrial and energy.
Figure 5.1

Conflicts in Taiwan considered in this chapter

Source:  A. Grimaldos


As reported by the Environmental Information Association, the Taiwanese state-owned Kuokuang petrochemical project met its end in 2011 due to objections from farmers, local residents and environmentalists. The Kuokuang project was first proposed in 2006 with the final site selected on a coastal wetland in southern Changhua County in 2008. It planned to build a 300,000 barrel-a-day refinery, plus factories that could produce 25 varieties of chemical products, and a 1.2-million-ton-a-year ethylene plant. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the project could boost Taiwan's economy by helping create many jobs, attract NT$933.6 billion in future investments, and generate NT$460 billion in annual output. MOEA pledged to ensure the public that the cracker project would have minimal impact on the environment.

However, civil groups warned that there could be significant environmental impacts, including air pollution, food security, human health risks, changes to coastal geography, and the area's water supply. The industrial complex planned to reclaim over 4,000 ha and build a harbour into an area which has long provided much of the country's fish and farm products. Besides, marine biodiversity conservation was also at risk. The proposed site, Dacheng Wetland, was Taiwan's greatest coastal wetland, rich in plant and animal life. Also, oil tankers and pollution might damage the habitat of the already endangered pink-hued Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins living in the waters of the wetland. 3

The Kuokuang petrochemical development project probably saw the strongest public opposition to an industrial project in Taiwan in years (leaving aside the nuclear industry). On 22 April 2011 Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, denied the application for the US$ 24 billion offshore refinery. The Kuokuang case combined local opposition because of risks to human health from pollution with concern for the destruction of a large wetland providing many environmental functions and also the loss of habitat for a very visible endangered species. Bringing together conservationism and local livelihood concerns is often a winning recipe for success in environmental justice struggles (Hsiao et al. 1995).


The petrochemical industry had already produced a nasty incident in 1988, the Linyuan incident, that gave rise to a mass protest in which victims barricaded the industrial park for three weeks, practically shutting down Taiwan's petrochemical supply. Linyuan District is a seaside township near the estuary of the Kaoping River. Before the installation of a petrochemical zone in the 1970s, fishing and aquaculture were the main local sources of livelihood. Industrialization brought about a subsistence crisis, as petrochemical plants recklessly extracted underground water and discharged their wastewater into the river and sea. In November 1973, the proposal for “Ten Major Construction Projects” including the Linyuan p. 94 p. 95petrochemical industrial zone had been announced at the fourth plenary session of the 10th Central Committee of Kuomintang.

The construction of the Linyuan Industrial Park was completed in February 1976. An accident occurred in September 1988. Heavy rain caused contaminated water to leak from the reservoir tank at the water treatment plant. The tank had insufficient capacity to handle wastewater. As local fishermen found dead fish floating at Shanwei fishing port, residents and eel farmers in seven villages near the complex started a self-relief movement in October demanding NT$ 2.4 billion in compensation. Some of them stormed into the industrial zone and forcibly shut down the power of the sewage treatment plant, halting the production of 18 companies.

This conflict evolved into a crisis for Taiwan's petrochemical industry. Negotiations started between the residents and the central government's Ministry of Economic Affairs with the mediation of the member of the Legislative Yuan (parliament) elected from the district, and they were brought to a successful conclusion on 15 October 1988. The 18 enterprises operating in the complex agreed to pay a total of NT$ 1,305 million in compensation, the highest ever for such a case. During the three weeks of negotiation, economic officials constantly threatened to use police force to disperse the blockade. At the same time, local fishermen who were eager to secure compensation angrily rejected outside voluntary intervention, detaching outside environmentalists from local pollution disputes.

If we classify environmental conflicts into those “preventive”, or affecting investments “in operation”, and those which seek “reparations” after damage has been done, we would undoubtedly classify the Linyuan incident as “seeking for reparations”. It was a successful one, considering the amount of money paid in compensation, and also because the local residents received exemptions from responsibility for the illegal acts they committed in their protests. But since then, Linyuan people have also been criticized as “green hooligans” by other Taiwan people, deeming that they lost the legitimacy of the original environmental protection claims after getting the compensation. All this is of course debatable (Terao 2002; Ho 2014; Ho and Su 2008).


Taiwan's electricity still depends to a large extent on coal-fired power plants (CFPP) and nuclear energy, and increasingly on wind energy. The Taichung Power Plant is a CFPP in Longjing with a very large installed capacity of 5,500 MW. It is one of the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide with approximately 40 million tons annually. In November 2017, the Taichung city government ordered that the Taichung Power Plant reduce its coal consumption by 24 per cent starting in January 2018.

Taiwan is moving slowly to an energy system based on gas and renewables, but it will be very difficult to discard coal and nuclear in absolute terms particularly if there is continuing economic growth. Perhaps local conflicts can help the transition. One conflictive CFPP is in Changhua located at the rather infamous Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corporations’ chemical plant complex. Formosa sells power to the national Taipower company. The plant was originally commissioned from 1986 to 1999. In September 2016 over 3,000 people rallied, urging the Changhua County government to refuse an extension of the operating permit for the plant. A petition launched on 10 September 2016 against the plant for its air pollution p. 96effects attracted 10,000 signatures. On 30 September 2016, Formosa Chemicals said it would shut down the plant but in March 2017 the Taiwan EPA allowed the power station's three newest units to continue operating. The two oldest units remain shut down since 2016.


Another rather recent turning point and a success for environmentalists in Taiwan, was the closing down of the Lungmen nuclear power plant in 2014, with two BWR reactors and a total capacity of 2,600 MWe. Available nuclear power in Taiwan accounts for around 8 per cent of its national energy consumption, and 19 per cent of its electricity generation in 2015. A Fourth Plant (Lungmen) was built near Taipei but it stalled in 2014. There are vague plans to shut all nuclear reactors in Taiwan by 2025. Freschi (2018) recalled that organized action against nuclear power started in Taiwan as far back as Chornobyl in 1986, during a time when anti-nuclear and pro-democracy forces found common cause in opposing the Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT). Taiwan, under KMT martial law for decades, had built three nuclear power plants with designs for a fourth underway. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) incorporated opposition to nuclear energy into their political platform, and as such, many activists were encouraged when the DPP's Chen Shui-bian won the 2000 election. Indeed, Chen's administration halted construction of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant immediately. However, months later, Chen walked back on his promise and allowed construction of the plant to resume. This slowed down the momentum of the anti-nuclear campaign. Boiling Water Reactors are supposed to be more dangerous than PWR (pressurized water reactors).

However, as reported by WISE, in May 2014 Taiwan's government finally halted construction of the country's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant as a result of sustained public opposition and protest. Premier Jiang Yi-huah from the governing Kuomintang Party (KMT) announced on 27 April 2014 that one of the two General Electric-Hitachi Advanced BWR at the Lungmen plant would be ‘sealed’ once safety checks were completed, and construction of the second unit would be halted immediately. There had been mass protests against nuclear power in Taiwan since the Fukushima disaster. In the days before the Premier's 27 April 2014 announcement, tens of thousands of protesters broke through a police cordon and staged a sit-in along a main street near the central train station in Taipei.

Five days before the 27 April 2014 announcement, former Taiwanese opposition leader Lin Yi-hsiung, who led the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from 1998‒2000, began a hunger strike to protest against the Lungmen plant. On April 30th, Lin ended his fast and said: “the people of Taiwan's outstanding display has been unprecedented (…). Nuclear opponents should take a step forward to ensuring the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 nuclear power plants are closed on schedule” (WISE 2014).

The anti-nuclear protests followed other major mass campaigns. The greatest single reason for opposition to the Fourth Nuclear Plant was that Taiwan is located in the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire. After several attempts at holding referendums on the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Plant and mass demonstrations, the decision was taken to stop the plant even though it was finished and the fuel rods had been uploaded. By 2018 the issue was degrading into farce as German “experts” proposed that the Fourth Nuclear Plant be converted into a theme park. But some voices are still in favour of putting the Fourth Nuclear Plant into operation. The main issue is what to do with the uranium fuel rods. Taiwan's state power company dodged questions about the fate of 1,700-plus fuel rods containing uranium pellets p. 97after its No-4 nuclear plant was mothballed by public opposition and the government's plan. The island's national grid operator, Taipower, said it has a three-year plan to process the bundles of unused fuel rods. There have been reports that General Electric, the contractor for the plant's reactors, demanded that all rods be returned for disposal. The Taipei-based United Daily News revealed that Taipower had already shipped 80 such rods from Keelung port and a second batch of 120 rods was expected to be sent in September 2014. A US subcontractor, the North Carolina-based Global Nuclear Fuel Americas LLC, had been appointed and would be responsible for dismantling and storing the rods.

Figure 5.2 is a banner “No Nukes. No more Fukushima (nuclear accident)” in a citizen-led campaign in 2013, when the anti-nuclear movement resurged after the Fukushima accident initiated by a café owner who hung up the flag becoming an anti-nuclear symbol. On 18 December 2021, a referendum was held on the continuation of the stalled NPP. Voters decided that Taiwan should not activate the Lungmen Nuclear Plant that was almost completed but stopped in 2014 due to the alarm raised by the Fukushima disaster.

A flag on a wall, Taiwan (Nisa yeh).
Figure 5.2

A flag on a wall, Taiwan

Source:  Nisa yeh


How do issues of environmental justice play out in conditions of cultural diversity, unequal power, coloniality and racism? This “coloniality” question (coloniality of power and of knowledge) can be explored for the case of nuclear waste storage on Orchid Island (known locally p. 98as Lanyu, 蘭嶼), homeland of the Yami aborigines. The case dates from the 1980s and the protests have been muted by economic compensation and by the passing of time, although in 2018 there was still news on the “repackaging” of the waste because the first barrels were corroded. Orchid Island houses nearly 100,000 barrels of nuclear waste. A report by WISE in 1993 explained that Orchid Island is the homeland of the Yami people, one of Taiwan's nine aboriginal tribes. The Yami have traditionally supported themselves with agriculture (primarily taro) and fishing, although tourism is also a big part of the economy. There are some 2,900 Yami people. For geographical and political reasons, the Yami have historically been the most isolated of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes.

According to WISE, in a case of extreme environmental injustice and racism, in the early 1970s Taiwan's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) convened a group of experts to examine various sites for a temporary storage facility for mid- and low-level nuclear waste. In 1974, this committee chose the Long Men (Dragon Gate) area on Orchid Island. A harbour was built in 1978 and shipments began arriving in May 1982. The site became the depository for nuclear waste from Taiwan's three nuclear plants as well as nuclear medical and research centres. By 1992, over 90,000 containers, each weighing 50 kg, were stored there. The Tao (or Yami) people have been fighting to remove nuclear waste for 30 years, but the waste still remains.

In 1991, the Yami people rose up in protests. Led by Kuo JIan-ping, a Yami Presbyterian missionary, and with the support of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TAPU) and the Green Association, the Yami anti-nuclear group held demonstrations on Orchid Island and in Taipei, where they carried a protest letter that contained three requests: (1) stop the expansion of the construction on the waste site; (2) stoppage of transport of nuclear waste to the Orchid Island; (3) the shutdown of the storage site. Their first request was met. But the operation of the storage site continued. Still in 2002, almost 2,000 protesters staged a sit-in in front of the storage plant, calling on Taipower to remove nuclear waste from the island and against the government's failure to keep its pledge to withdraw the 100,000 barrels of low-level nuclear waste from their isle. Again in 2017, the Tao youth Young Aborigines on Orchid Island protested for a clear deadline for the removal of nuclear waste from the island (Fan 2006; Huang 2014).


Located in the mountainous region of Southern Taiwan, Meinung is a community where the majority of local residents are of Hakka descent (people who migrated from Guangdong). The controversy concerning the proposed Meinung dam began in 1992 when rumours began to circulate in this tobacco-growing rural community. It was to be built in the upstream of Meinung Creek, would be an earth dam 147 m high and 220 m wide with a full storage capacity of 32.8 million m3, and it would have flooded 6.4 km2 of forest in the Yellow Butterfly Valley. Planning began in the 1980s; however, it was not known to the local residents until 1992. The dam raised fear among the local residents, since the area is prone to earthquakes. The dam would be only 1.5 km upstream from the nearest village and 4 km away from the centre of the township with a population of 55,000, posing a threat to the safety of the region and its residents (Hou 2000).p. 99

Upon completion, the dam would have supplied water to the region's growing heavy industries. The government's failure to disclose the project angered the communities and their leaders. A small group of local people, including teachers and scholars, initiated a movement that expanded into a broad coalition of residents and organizations. Between 1993 and 1994, the movement organized a series of protests in Taipei, persuading the Economic and Budget Committee at the National Legislature to eliminate the dam project. Meinung has long had a strong and distinct cultural identity as an agrarian Hakka community. This strong cultural identity ‒ researched by Jeffrey Hou ‒ became an important component in mobilizing the community and constructing an argument against the proposed dam. The book Return to Meinung (1994) represented a manifesto for the movement. In addition, the creation of an annual Yellow Butterfly Festival is one of the most direct expressions of the anti-dam movement.

The Meinung Anti-dam Movement was arguably the most successful example of a grassroots environmental movement in Taiwan. Not only did it successfully stop the government from implementing the project, but it also brought many members of the community together and articulated a vision of a sustainable community with cultural and ecological characteristics.

The Meinung People's Association (MPA) secretary-general, Chiu Jing-hui (邱靜慧) remembered that the organization was founded in 1994 to protest the government's plan to construct a dam in the Twin Creeks catchment area. The MPA successfully mobilized locals and organized petitions against the dam, leading to the project's suspension in 2000. The dam would have destroyed a tropical forest as well as Yellow Butterfly Valley, home to more than 110 butterfly species and 90 kinds of birds. After authorities resolved in 2000 not to build the dam, the MPA shifted its attention to other issues such as promoting conservation and awareness of the need for coexistence between humans and nature, providing environmental education and pushing for the restoration of damaged areas.

Hakka singer Lin Sheng-xiang's music took him to perform throughout Asia, Europe and America with the band Labor Exchange (交工樂隊), which was formed by Zhong Yong-Feng (鍾永豐) and Lin Sheng-xiang (林生祥) during protests against the building of the Meinung Dam (美濃水庫) in 1992 (Agoramoorthy and Hsu 2007; Liang 1993; Chung 2006).


A relatively small-scale movement against “Crazy” Windmills by the company InfraVest forced demolition of controversial infrastructure and cooperated with conflicts in other areas. This is a case of a limited but significant success against encroachment by a foreign company on the rights of local people. Conflicts around wind energy arise for several reasons: from damage to birds, to aesthetic objections, to “loss of livelihood” because of land grabbing by the wind energy companies (Avila 2018).

As reported in the EJAtlas, in September 2012 residents of Yuanli Township launched protests against a wind turbine construction project to build 14 wind turbines, each capable of generating 2,300 KW of energy, along the pristine coastline. Residents formed the Yuanli Self-Help Group(苑里反疯车自救会,AntiCrazyWindmills) as they were concerned about the density and close proximity of turbines to their homes (Note: “crazy” in Chinese pinyin is “feng” which is the same as “wind”). Until January 2013, of the 7,682 residents of Yuanli p. 1004,281 signed the petition opposing the construction of turbines in their neighbourhood; scientific reports indicated there could be health problems due to exposure to the low-frequency noise generated. After Yuanli residents began to physically block InfraVest trucks from accessing the construction site, many students joined. Since September 2012, members of the Yuanli Self-Help Organization against Wind Turbines protested at the Bureau of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Executive Yuan, the Control Yuan and in front of the InfraVest office in Taipei. In May 2013, the organization appealed to the company and related governmental agencies. Members are against any energy development that sacrifices rural residents’ right to their chosen livelihood.

Skirmishes involving police and protesters forced the central government to intervene after police used disproportionate means. Meanwhile, InfraVest filed a NT$ 10 million (US$335,000) “slap” lawsuit against seven members of the Yuanli Self-Help Organization. The lawsuit prompted 12 civic organizations to issue a joint public statement condemning the company for using the law as intimidation. InfraVest also stepped-up security by having dozens of security guards filming and preventing anyone from approaching the construction site. Fourteen college students and 6 residents were charged for coercion.

In October 2013, after a three-month halt, InfraVest tried to restart the wind turbine construction one night. Local residents who tried to stop them said construction workers and security guards used violence against them. Yuanli Self-Help Group criticized InfraVest and Hi Tan Security for the use of violence, as well as Fei-ling Electronic Engineering and Taimon ‒ as the subcontractors for the wind turbine pipeline constructions ‒ for being complicit in the incident. During the trials, duty lawyers, students and residents all advocated for “safeguarding our hometown and freedom of speech”. After the Taiwan Miaoli District Court acquitted them of the offence in 2015, the prosecutor appealed to the High Court. On 25 February 2016, the court gave a final verdict of acquittal.

Chen Hui-ming, a demonstrator as well as a village chief, said: “After the demonstration, InfraVest demolished the wind turbine by themselves, indicating that they knew they were wrong. We knew that justice was on our side and we would be acquitted eventually”. Yuanli Self-Help Group said that renewable energy development is an essential part of the energy structure of Taiwan but it cannot be “violently achieved”.

After two years of negotiation, Yuanli Self-Help Group reached an agreement with the wind energy company. They agreed to demolish the two controversial wind turbines and keep the other two. Local residents, students and lawyers played their unique roles during the process, while women were a special force in resistance. In this case, the environmental justice movement was clearly connected to the agrarian justice movement. The Farmer's Market called “Bow to Land”, which promotes peasant farming, green consumption, food sovereignty and local economy, was one of the key supporters of the protests.


The Zhoushui Alluvial Plain has been an important rice production area in Taiwan since the early eighteenth century after the development of an irrigation system. Taiwan was under Japanese rule between 1895 and 1945. With the nationalization of irrigation water under the colonial rule, Cizaipijun became the first state-built irrigation system in 1910, watering over p. 1013,900 ha of farmland (now around 18,765 ha) in south Changhua County, including Hsichou Township (Chen 2009). With the industrialization of the island since the mid-twentieth century, Zhoushui River became a river of/for industry as well as of agriculture. In the late 1990s, the Jiji Weir was constructed by the central government to intercept the river's water from the midstream for more ‘effective’ water management. The industrial water demand was prioritized (Tien 2002; Su 2002) over agricultural use. Consequently, more than 340,000 tons/day of water were directly transported to a mega petrochemical complex located by the estuary, which led to a ‘four-day-irrigation-with-six-day-cutting-off’ rotation scheme by the Changhua Irrigation Association (CIA) in Cizaipijun. This intensified farmers’ reliance on groundwater and the problem of land subsidence in the downstream area since the 1970s (Chang 2014; Chou 2017). This conflict (like the previous one) combines environmental and agrarian injustices. Despite various signs of water shortage, the state-led 4th expansion project of Central Taiwan Science Park Project (CTSP4) was sited in Changhua in 2008, to which the CIA agreed to sell 66,500 tons/day of water from Cizaipijun.

It was not until May 2011 that the local farmers and activists associated with Taiwan Rural Front (TRF) learned of the deal by surprise. A self-help group of more than one hundred farmers was soon established with the help of college students, environmental NGOs, and famous writers and local activists, carrying out protests and press conferences in front of the local office of CIA, the Executive Yuan, the parliament, and the Environmental Protection Administration in Taipei. These farmers also attended the mass demonstration of the land justice movement in front of the Presidential Hall in Taipei in July 2011, and brought a lawsuit against the CIA and the CTSP Bureau in February 2012. The National Science Council (NSC) agreed in March 2012 to temporarily halt the water diversion project. However, within a week the construction was restarted. This ignited another series of resistance, including more protests in Taipei and a 98-day sit-in by the water intake in Hsichou to stop the water diversion project. Their resistance resulted in the NSC's decision to change the water intake downstream with a great reduction in water demand, which marked a half-victory to the water struggle.


In March 1986, residents of Lukang Town launched an environmental movement against a titanium dioxide plant and its success became a milestone in Taiwan's environmental protection history. In 1976, Changhua coastal region was chosen by the Industrial Development Bureau to develop the industry. In 1977, the region was divided into Shenkang, Xianxi, Lunwei and Lukang, four parts to construct industrial factories. Due to the crash of the second oil shock to the global economy, the development process was suspended temporarily in 1981. In 1985, the Industrial Development Bureau announced that they intended to concentrate Taiwanese production factories in the industrial park. Besides, the American DuPont Company's application of constructing a titanium dioxide factory in Lukang was also approved in August 1985. The construction was opposed by Lukang residents.

Fishermen and mariculturists in Lukang, worried that the treatment of wastewater from titanium dioxide plants would increase seawater pollution. Religious and cultural people also worried that the new factory would be detrimental to the preservation of local cultural p. 102relics and traditional customs. The administrator of Taiwan Environment Protection Bureau rejected citizens’ requirement for cancelling the DuPont construction but promised that he would negotiate with the Industrial Development Bureau to approve the construction after the EIA. However, this decision failed to calm citizens down. Li Dongliang, the previous councillor of Changhua County, called on citizens to sign the petition for preventing the DuPont factory construction in February 1986. In March he went to Taipei to deliver the petition to the Executive Yuan, the Industrial Development Bureau and the environment protection bureau.

This petition led to protests across Taiwan against DuPont's construction in Changhua. Some officers said that only under the premise of “zero pollution” of the titanium dioxide factory would they agree to set up a factory. But others announced that “zero pollution” would make it impossible for Taiwan to develop any industry. On June 1986, DuPont organized a group of more than 20 people from Taiwan to visit the United States to study DuPont's prevention measures for potential pollution. This visit changed a few visitors’ fierce oppositions to DuPont.

However, this intensified the opposite attitude of citizens in Lukang. On 23 June 1986, the residents who were anti-DuPont wearing T-shirts with the words “Love Lukang, No DuPont”, organized a parade around 1.2 km long, led by Li Dongliang, the previous councillor, perhaps the first demonstration in the history of the Taiwan environmental justice movement. People who joined the protest didn’t get punished, which was a signal of loosening political power and gaining a political opportunity.

On 17 July, Li Dongliang organized an “Anti-Pollution Tour” which led more than 300 local people to Taipei. By this time, the slogan on their T-shirts had become “Love Taiwan, Not DuPont”. Due to the high visibility of the DuPont project, the embryonic student movement broke loose from the confines of the college campus. Previously, Taiwan's environmentalism was mainly restricted to middle-class professionals. Afterwards, journalists and professors were emboldened to work with the grassroots. The Taiwan Environmental Protection Union(TEPU,台湾环境保护联盟), organized at the end of 1987, was the product of this cross-class collaboration.

A symposium was held by DuPont on 1 September 1986, but Lukang residents resisted it and the symposium ended unsuccessfully. In October, “Changhua County Pollution Control Association” was established to boycott DuPont's factory in Changbin Industrial Park by means of extensive mobilization and diversified protest methods. The peak of “Anti-DuPont” happened on 23 December 1986. Li Dongliang led hundreds of people to parade in front of the Office of the President. After further demonstrations, on 12 March 1987, Ke Silu, the manager of Dupont Taiwan, officially announced the cancellation of the Lukang factory. DuPont changed the site and started to construct the titanium dioxide factory in Guanyin District, Tao Yuan city, in 1989. The unexpected victory of a small town over an American chemical giant enhanced the morale of Taiwan's nascent environmentalism. Many Lukang activists participated later in a number of environmental protests all over Taiwan (Ho 2013).


RCA came to Taiwan in 1969 to produce electronic parts for televisions, employing more than 30,000 people at its peak production, most of them women from poor families. The US p. 103company was found to have dumped toxic waste at its Taoyuan factory in northern Taiwan polluting the soil and underground water, leading to alarmingly high reports of cancer among its workers.

Workers were required to use organic solvents including trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene to clean printed circuit boards. Both are classified as Group 2A carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These agents enter the body through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion. Without any warning or training from RCA, the workers breathed the volatile solvents in the air of the factory. This was a movement for reparations once the damage had been grievously held. It is common for “working-class environmentalism” conflicts to be related to loss of health. It appears that health related issues are key concerns in working-class environmentalism (Chapter 20; Navas et al. 2022).

On 17 April 2015, the Taipei District Court rendered a verdict in favour of former assembly line workers at the now-defunct electronics company, Radio Corporation of America. Yet, it is possible that the compensation would be unattainable. When the team of Taiwanese attorneys applied to the courts to provisionally seize RCA's assets for investigation, they found out RCA had already transferred its assets out of Taiwan roughly around the same time when it was held accountable for the clean-up between 1996 and 1997. It was difficult for the Taiwanese workers to file a lawsuit in the United States because the allegations stem from abroad. Court rulings in 2017 gave larger compensations. But there is a feeling that this is too little and too late. A full account is given by Paul Jobin (2021; also Jobin et al. 2021).


The evolution of the environmental movement in Taiwan in the last 40 years is explained in part by changes in the internal politics of the island and the competition between two parties: the Kuomintang party, KMT, the remains of the party that lost the Chinese civil war of the late 1940s and migrated to Taiwan, and the DPP, a more democratic political party and also more favourable towards the environment. But the strength of the environmental movement is also explained, perhaps mainly, as a response to the challenges faced by Taiwanese society because of new polluting industries that damage the natural environment and the people. The growth of the economy means increases and changes in the social metabolism (the flows of energy and materials), and therefore environmental impacts of different sorts threaten or are already experienced by people, giving rise to grievances and claims.

According to the profiles of the social metabolism, different perceived impacts arise: in Taiwan there are no complaints about open-cast metal mining, at least not with the intensity of the Philippines. Some differences are explained biologically or geologically. There are no oil palm plantations conflicts in Taiwan. Industrial conflicts predominate in Taiwan, which in this regard makes it similar to Japan. The main commodities in question in this brief survey are petrochemical products, electricity from CFPP, nuclear PP and nuclear waste, hydropower, water and agricultural products, windmills’ energy, titanium and electronic parts.

In some of Taiwan's cases, the cult of wilderness and multispecies justice joins hands with the environmentalism of the people and the Indigenous, and also with agrarian justice movements. As elsewhere, conservationists sometimes join hands with the stronger civic or peasant movements for environmental justice. The rate of success in stopping actually or potentially p. 104damaging investment projects is higher in Taiwan than in many other countries. There is also an element of nationalism.

Also, profiting from external events such as the Fukushima disaster, local environmental movements in Taiwan have succeeded in slowing down or halting a number of large industrial projects. This chapter has followed the vicissitudes of one large dam project in south Taiwan which was stopped (the Meinung dam and the defence of the Yellow Butterfly Park), as well as the protests from Indigenous people of Orchid Island (Lanyu) against the dumping of nuclear waste. The petrochemical industry has been contested in large projects such as Kuokang and Linyuan, sometimes successfully. The petrochemical industry is one main consumer of oil and one large source of plastics which in themselves become a major pollutant when discarded. (Mah 2022). Environmentalists have also protested against land grabbing and water grabbing in the construction or expansion of so-called science parks in the central counties (the Hsichou case), and against very large coal-fired power plants as in Changhua. In some cases, the companies involved are Taiwanese (private or public), in others they are foreign.

Environmentalists have managed to use the ebbs and flows of electoral politics to win some of their conflicts with the help of the DPP and even sometimes of the KMT. The protagonists of the conflicts are various: sometimes farmers but also citizens, in a few cases also Indigenous minorities, and working-class women. Sometimes the activists “stormed into industrial zones”, “blocked trucks”, “sat in” in public buildings, or went into hunger strikes and of course marched in street protests. They also wrote petitions and litigated. TEPU, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, appears in several cases. Most of the conflicts turn around the infringements of rights to land and water, and also the risks to human health and safety. Sometimes the risks become fully known (as in the case of RCA), sometimes they are uncertain but threatening nonetheless (as in the fights against petrochemical complexes or nuclear waste). In cases where the damage has already been done, reparations in the form of monetary compensation are demanded, but in other cases preventive cancellation of the project before it starts is asked for.



A first version was published in Ecología Política, no. 56, 2018.


Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Company, Taiwan (Taiwan Environmental Information Association), EJAtlas.


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Linyuan Industrial Park, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (EnvJustice team ICTA UAB and NWAFU master students directed by Dr Juan Liu), EJAtlas.


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This draft case was written by Huei-Ling Lai (ISS, The Hague) for the EJAtlas.


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