Clashes erupt at protest against naphtha cracker

About 2,000 police officers clash with protesters trying to break through police lines

Clashes between police and protesters against the Formosa Plastics Group naphtha cracker complex in Yunlin County led to several arrests Tuesday.

Residents of Mailiao and Taihsi called for a blockade of the plant after the company refused to pay a NT$1.7 billion (US$53 million) compensation package for a fire on July 25, the second blaze within a month during negotiations Monday. Instead, the company offered a maximum of NT$500 million (US$15.6 million).

An estimated 3,000 people turned up on three major roads leading to the plant early Tuesday morning. They prevented trucks from reaching the petrochemical complex but allowed cars to pass.

About 2,000 police officers clashed with protesters trying to break through police lines and arrested four protest leaders. They were later released after police took down their details, reports said, while both sides retreated some distance. Yunlin County Magistrate Su Chih-fen and protest leaders visited the men, reports said.

The protesters dispersed by noon but threatened to return later in the day.

The company said the impact of the blockade was limited because essential transportation had been completed on Monday evening and employees had been asked to show up for work early.

In talks with FPG top managers Monday, the Yunlin County Government wanted the company to pay an overall package of NT$32 billion (US$1 billion) to finance local development and to close the factory 20 years after it started operating, meaning in 2016. The company turned down the county requests and stood by its original maximum limits.

Farmers and fishermen working in the area have accused the FPG complex of being responsible for heavy pollution as well as elevated cancer levels. They want the company to suspend local operations until a thorough health risk review has been completed.

The naphtha cracker dispute is one of several conflicts between existing and planned industrial zones backed by the government and local residents, often farmers threatened with losing their land.

Similar disputes surround a planned petrochemical complex in Changhua County and the expansion of science parks in the counties of Miaoli, Taichung and Changhua.

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