ICRT’s Weekly Central Taiwan News Report, Mar. 10

The water crisis begins to bite

The reality that a water crisis is happening is finally beginning to impact urban residents in central Taiwan after previously been largely the concern of farmers whose farms were ordered to lay fallow and industries and businesses forced to curtail water usage.
The Deji Reservoir that supplies Taichung has dropped to just 10.19 percent capacity, its lowest level in 47 years.
Previously only in effect in the evenings, water pressure has been dropped to all residents in Taichung and Changhua County all day round.
In addition, major non-industrial water consumers in the regions, such as swimming pools, car washes and saunas, will be required to double their water-saving rate from 10 percent to 20 percent of their average water usage.
Industrial users had already faced the 20 percent cut, and there is now international concern that key industries in central Taiwan–such as key chipmaker TSMC–will be unable to operate at some point soon, exacerbating an already serious worldwide chip shortage problem.
TSMC and others have begun preparing water trucks.
The central government maintains that they are confident water supplies will hold out until the rainy season in May, but the Taichung City government is already warning they expect the alert level locally–currently orange–will soon be upgraded to a crisis red level.
Both Taichung and Changhua are preparing a raft of measures, from calling on citizens to conserve water, allowing permits for emergency groundwater well drilling, boosting water conservation, fining companies violating their water usage limits and even in Changhua turning off the showers at sports centres.
The Council of Agriculture’s Irrigation Agency even held a ceremony to pray for rain with the Dajia Jenn Lann Matsu Temple in Taichung on Sunday, only the fourth time in the history of the temple since it was founded in 1730.

Light at the end of the tunnel for MRT?

After the discovery of broken and damaged connectors between the carriages of the MRT Green Line cars in November halted the public trials of the line, the Taichung City government has held a firm line on not re-opening the trials until they were completely satisfied that it would be safe.
In spite of the builders of the project, Taipei’s DORTS and Kawasaki, insisting on the safety of the repairs, the city continued to ask for more data and clarifications.
Finally last Friday, after six intensive investigative meetings, the city government committee overseeing the meetings finally recommended that trials resume.
Yesterday at a press conference, Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen announced she was satisfied that the line would be safe to re-open.
She also announced that this morning she will hold another press conference announcing the dates and times it will resume.
Even after the trials resume, however, it won’t likely be on a fully operational schedule until the trials are finished–but the trials will likely be open to the public.

No 3Q, recall campaign moves to stage two

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), a motion to recall Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟–aka ‘3Q’), a Taichung legislator and only Taiwan Statebuilding Party lawmaker, can proceed to stage two.
A total of 3,744 valid signatures for stage two were received, but to complete stage two petitioners need to collect at least 29,113 signatures within the next 60 days for a recall vote to trigger a formal recall vote.
For a recall vote to pass, at least 25 percent of eligible voters–or 72,781 in this case–must vote in favor of it, and they must outnumber those who vote against it.
In a play on his nickname ‘3Q’, which is a playful way of rendering the English ‘thank you’, the recall campaign is called ‘刪Q’, which translates to ‘delete Q’.
Chen, who is a strong supporter of Taiwan sovereignty, has frequently clashed with the KMT in the legislature.
He said that he will do his best to meet people’s expectations in him, but added he “could not meet the expectations of those who have no faith in me.”

Billionaire indicted for massive gambling operation

A Taichung billionaire and 31 of his employees have been charged with gambling, engaging in organized criminal activity, and tax evasion by the Taichung District Prosecutors Office.
Prosecutors have confiscated all of the assets found under his name, including 13 luxury cars, NT$1.2 billion and US$2.65 million in cash, and 41 properties worth NT$1.3 billion, to prevent him from moving or liquidating these ill-gotten gains prior to trial.
The 50-year-old billionaire, Chuang Chou-wen (莊周文), chairman of Taichung-based Xinliwang International Holdings Company Ltd., allegedly owns a total of 12 companies that have jointly operated an online gambling platform called “GPK Bet” since 2014.
The platform featured 532 online gambling sites and 54 online gambling system providers, largely geared towards gamblers in China.
The operation was busted in January 2020 when investigators found an office building in Taichung had been used as a money-laundering center to transfer high volumes of money in and out of different accounts held by gamblers–in part through 843 dummy accounts in China.
The building and accounts were eventually traced to Chuang and his company, who was arrested last November.
The indictment says that through their informal transfer system, Chuang and his company earned an illicit profit of nearly NT$60 billion–or about US$4.4 billion–and evaded taxes of around NT$266 million.

Taiwan tea appears in unusual places

Elections are approaching in the Indian tea-growing state of Assam, and as politicians often do, they go out of their way to reach out and show their concern for the average citizens.
Trying to do just that, the opposition Congress Party in the state posted up pictures of local tea gardens to show their solidarity with this important segment of the local community.
Only one small problem, the people in the pictures were not quite dressed like locals–a fact picked up by members of the ruling BJP.
They discovered that, in fact, the pictures used were of tea gardens in Nantou County.
Of course it is nice to see beautiful images of Nantou shared with the world, and hopefully it will encourage more people from Assam to visit.

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

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