Press Conference for Indictment in Taiwan against Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation for Ocean Pollution

Joint Press Release

Infamous FHS Polluted Ocean
Press Conference for Indictment in Taiwan against Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation for Ocean Pollution

In the cause of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation (hereinafter “FHTSC”), located at Vung Ang Economic Zone of Ha Tinh Province, Vietnam, which is mainly invested by Taiwan FPC, had involved into a severe event regarding ocean pollution in Apr 2016, leading to the immense ecological destruction along the coasts of middle provinces in Vietnam. Furthermore, many related local industries such as fishing and salt production have been impacted and the huge economic losses have incurred thereupon. Although FPC has officially admitted their faults to the public and committed to pay US$500 million thereof to the Vietnamese government for the compensation thereof, as far they still stay behind the curtain and do to directly confront with the local inhabitants, launch a comprehensive investigation on the actual losses and make the compensations to them. Today, Justice for Formosa Victims (JFFV), and the retired Bishops as well as victims` family from Dioecesis Kontumensis, officially mandate the Taiwanese attorneys to press charges internationally against FPC, demanding the concrete compensation plans and recovery solutions for ocean pollution from FPC.

The former Bishop Huynh of Dioecesis Kontumensis emphasized, the indictment is a necessity not only for the Vietnamese to seek justice, but the measure to protect our environments and planet for every human being. This ocean pollution event has resulted in at least 100 tons of perished fishes along the coasts of middle provinces in Vietnam, which has not even included yet those dead ones beneath the ocean surface. For this reason, many Vietnamese continually organize the protests against FHTSC for numerous times even though the Vietnamese authorities strictly prohibit, and there are over hundreds of thousands people who concern about the social issue and partake in these protests among all the major cities in Vietnam such as Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Nghe An, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Sadly, all these protests usually end up by violent quelling of the authorities, and many of the protestors are arrested and sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment, of which some are even up to 20 years.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) of Vietnam stated to the public at the press conference on Jun 30, 2016, the Bishop indicated further, that the responsible person of FHTSC had committed their wrong and agreed to apologize for it, as well as make the compensations up to US$500 million to the victims and for ecological recovery of marine environments. According to the reports (#246 / BC-CP) submitted to the National Assembly on Jul 26, 2016, by the Minister of MONRE, declaring that FHTSC had had 53 violations in total of environmental regulations, wherein the most serious part is to adopt the laggard and pollutional Wet Quenching System
instead of the innovative and green Dry Quenching System. Also, the numbers of 17,682 fishing vessels and 40,966 people who are directly influenced by the pollution, as well as 176,285 labours who are indirectly impacted, were summarized in accordance with statistics reference in the reports. However, it is believed that the actual amounts should be outnumbered.

On the other hand, the US$500 million of compensations coordinated between FPC and Vietnamese government do not stand any reliable proof at all. The entire procedures of settlement are too hasty, and many sufferers do not get the payments until today. Moreover, FHTSC still does not take any measure to treat the pollutant, nor launch any action to recover the polluted ocean since the incident had occurred. Until this moment, FHTSC continues to contaminate and pollute the nature in Vietnam. According to the official documents from the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of Ha Tinh Province on Apr 6, 2019, FHTSC generates solid waste up to 3,360,500 tons per year in average, where there are still approximately 780,000 tons remained to be processed. In addition, FHTSC also transports the poisonous waste to other places for discard, and all the residents residing near the plants have to endure the critically hazardous haze and particles consecutively every single day.

Since our ocean was polluted, people`s lives here are getting worse than ever, and many of them have been pushed into a dilemma, said the former Bishop. Except for the illnesses and diseases caused by the pollution, those inhabitants also must face the grave difficulty of unemployment provoked due to the reduction of fish landings. The destruction of oceanic environments not only brings out hundreds of thousands people losing their jobs, but causes countless ships to stop running and be damaged also. Many locals are pushed into the dead end constructed by heavy liabilities and are compelled to leave their hometowns. As a result, many families are therefore broken; husbands are parted from wives, children are parted from parents, and love is parted from life.
The event of marine pollution created by FHTSC, the Bishop further noted, has ultimately and inevitably devastated the entire industrial as well as social structures of Vietnam, launching a non-evaluative cataclysm to countless Vietnamese families. More than a calamity, it is a sinful abomination. Almost all the major victims in this incident come from the poor labouring class, because they do not have the adequate resources to go to Taiwan defending themselves. Thus, we as the Catholic Bishops, are entrusted in the name of those Vietnamese victims, to reveal the truth and crimes to the international community about what FHTSC has done to us.

As a Vietnamese, we admire and respect the spirits of democracy, liberty and independence of Taiwan. However, we shall not compromise nor tolerate any unethical behaviour that underestimates the values of life, health and existence of other people but pursuing only economic benefits. It is always the conscience we must put in our minds in priority when we seek for the financial advantage brought by the economic cooperation between Taiwan and Vietnam, that we can approach the truly sustainable relations and create a win-win situation. Purpose on this indictment is not only about the compensation, but also to dwell the righteousness for all those who have suffered from the disaster. Furthermore, for the sustainable development of human beings, we solemnly demand FPC to fulfil their responsibilities toward environmental protection. For our appeal is for our kind of humanity, as well as for our descendants.

One victim involved in the pollution incident too stated that his family and earnings have enormously fluctuated since the event, he cannot sail nor catch fish, and neither would anyone like to buy fish from him. In the end, he had no other ways but to sell his boat and fishing tackle at a cheap price to keep living. All his family members are kept apart, he was also forced to depart from his parents, wife as well as children, and eventually came to Taiwan for employment. Nevertheless, he and his family still do not acquire any compensation so far. There are still a huge number of families in the Middle Vietnam, indicated the poor victim, who also deeply suffered from the pollution caused by FHTSC.

This brave Vietnamese who represents the victims later added, “Even though today I am here to stand, I still have to shade my face because I am worried about the persecution by our own administration. Still, here I am, standing to speak the truth, voicing for those who cannot, and for those who are longing for justice. I simply hope that everyone can understand how much agony and humiliation we have been through. Most of all, I hope that FPC can give back our dignity.”

Director of the Environmental Jurists Association, Mr. Zhang Yu-yin, who is authorized as the attorney on behalf of the Vietnamese victims, said that since his participation in Lawyer Group for RCA Case from 2010 until today, he has witnessed many cases that transnational corporations from an advanced country with absolutely economic advantage, who use the large capital to conquer another country with relatively weaker economy, just to approach a higher profitability driven by greed. These immoral enterprises use the leak of incomplete administrative system of local politics, depriving resources, destroying environments, violating human rights, as well as abusing labours, women and children of the country. “For all these inhuman deeds planted by the loathsome transnational corporations,” he added, “I despise them. Yet, as a Taiwan enterprise, FPC entitles themselves in the name of FORMOSA, the Beautiful Island, what they have done is a disgrace to Taiwan and Vietnam.”

As one of the largest steel mill invested by FPC, in 2006, they once attempted to launch an appropriate location for their plant in Yunlin Offshore Industrial Park, yet they failed eventually. Afterwards, they transferred the funds and decided to settle the steel mill in Vietnam, making them the investor with the largest scale locally. However, this is exactly when the true nightmare descends upon the Middle Vietnam. From 2009, there have been numerous homelands which were levied, locals whom were cast out, schools which were shut down, villages which were torn down, and ocean which was polluted. All the good people who used to dwell in the neighbourhood adjacent to the beautiful coasts, and who used to have their own lives and dreams, all vanishing away. Now, we witnessed that the dream of birth of a transnational steel mill empire, of which Mr. Wang Yung-ching had always fantasized while he was alive, has finally come true; at the same time, we also saw the funeral of the ecological environments which had been destructively stricken due to the FHTSC pollution, along with our proud reputation of FORMOSA. For the people who inhabit the coastal provinces of Middle Vietnam, Taiwan / FORMOSA is no longer a friendly country of democracy, but a villain who brings only pollution and destruction.

Thus, we must do something, to tell the Vietnamese people and the international community, that Taiwan, also as known as FORMOSA, The Beautiful Island, as one of the paragon of democracy in Asia, is a friend to our neighbours, and a country which is always aware of examining ourselves. We will not just sit by and merely see how our own transnational corporation brings pain and suffering to the Vietnamese people, but do nothing.

Despite that FPC had committed their own faults to the global society and apologized to the Vietnamese people on Jun 30, 2016, as well as paying US$500 million to the Vietnamese authorities, however, in fact, the money does not flow to the people. Under the reign of authoritarianism of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), the compensation is now more like a protection fee to the CPV. Whenever the locals try to protest, report or parade, they always end up by fierce suppression with bloodshed. Some citizens are even sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment which is over a decade because they just try to disclose the injustice to the public. Vietnamese court does not even accept and hear the case of lawsuit regarding damages filed by the victims any more. Moreover, the CPV even sends some agents to trace and monitor the local Bishops as well as opinion leaders, aiming at extinguishing the fire of hope for seeking fairness and righteousness, while FPC can still safely keep depriving the local resources.
Today, Justice for Formosa Victims (JFFV), Vietnam Migrant Workers and Immigrants Office of Hsinchu Diocese (VMWIO), Environmental Jurists Association (EJA), Environmental Rights Foundation (ERF), Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), and Covenants Watch (CW) together file the lawsuit, to claim for damages at the court of Taiwan, regarding the incident of marine pollution incurring in Apr 2016, for approximate 8,000 Vietnamese living in the coastal provinces of Middle Vietnam. Herein we demand the claim for damages for all the losses of lives, health, properties, as well as employee`s personality rights from Formosa Plastics Corporation (FPC), China Steel Corporation (CSC), JFE Steel Corporation, as well as the joint venture, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation (FHTSC), and all its Directors of the Board thereof. Because almost all the defendants are in Taiwan, and all the evidence concerning the management policies of FHTSC received from FPC, is also in Taiwan; therefore, the court of Taiwan should have the jurisdiction.

For this transnational case is so important, and will be under the spotlight definitely to the international community. It will be also an excellent opportunity to show the independence and progress of our juridical system. Due to that the Vietnamese cannot find justice in their own country, we are here to appeal sincerely, that the court of Taiwan should accept and hear the case with fairness and selflessness, and should also give the best convenience on the arrangement of administrative procedures for those Vietnamese demandants. We hope that we can present ourselves to every court in the world about the transparency, independence, fairness and progress of Taiwanese judicial system after the RCA case. And let the whole Asia understand that Taiwan is a democratic, rule-of-law and self- disciplined country, which is the model and beacon of our neighbouring countries.

The attorney of ERF, Ms. Huang Xin-wen indicated, that her associates and she had been to the middle provinces in Vietnam this Feb, they also met a lot of victims’ families, and then she gets to understand the actual difficulties that those inhabitants are facing. Through her own eyes, she witnessed that this incident has ruined so many families. Their fish cannot be sold, neither do the administration approve it, and numerous shipowners only have to dismiss their employees and sell the boats. Those who are younger, or have a little bit deposits may have a change to find a job besides Vietnam; but those who are poorer or elder, the only opportunity they have got is to do the part-time jobs near their neighbourhoods. Some try to catch fish, yet they cannot even earn a living due to the abrupt reduction of the yield. “According to our information, one shipowner just committed suicide because he couldn`t repay the money for a boat. Many sufferers cried so painfully in front of us, hoping that we can help them…As a Taiwanese, it is the very first time I really felt so ashamed.” She added, “We contacted many victims of this incident, some did get the compensations from their government, approximating to NT$20 thousand. Just NT$20 thousand, and yet they have lost almost everything. Not to mention those who still do not get any compensation so far! What the saddest thing is, that FPC still does not show their sincerity to directly confront with those victims and their families. All they did is just to say they are sorry bureaucratically on TV and paid the money to the CPV. After that, they keep the operating activities again, and pretend there is nothing happened.”

Because the Vietnamese are not able to acquire the reasonable compensations and judicial relief since the incurrence of FHTSC pollution, yet meanwhile FPC still sits behind easily in Taiwan, telling the story of steel fantasy, and dreaming the greatness of its steel empire. We think that FPC should take the full responsibilities to response to those whom have suffered and all the broken families.

President of JFFV, Mr. John-hoa Nguyen also noted, in Apr 2016, FHTSC caused a cataclysmic incident, leading to the countless dead fishes in Ha Tinh Province, and enormously impacting the ecological environments as well as the economy of the local dwellers. This FHTSC is actually a subsidiary of FPC. It has been almost 3 years as of today, and FPC still does not fulfil their obligation to remove all the poisonous pollutants and recovery the marine ecology, or compensate the victims directly with rational prices. We sincerely appreciate those groups whoever have ever cooperated with us and supported us, including EJA, ERF, CW, TAHR, VMWIO, as well as the international scholar and associate researcher of Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Mr. Paul Jobin. Also, I need to thank to all the Taiwanese people who firmly uphold the spirits of justice and fairness. We need to stick together, forcing FPC to respond to the pollution what they had created.

Vice President of JFFV, Mrs. Nancy Bui described, if FPC could had recovered the damage they caused to our ocean and made the actual compensations to those Vietnamese victims with sincere intentions, just as what are regulated in compliance with the Vietnamese laws, we wouldn`t press charges against them at the court of Taiwan.

Nevertheless, FPC compromised with the Vietnamese authorities very soon after the statement on their mistakes. They claimed that the US$500 million compensations had been paid to the local administration in spite of the lack of proper understanding and detailed investigation upon the real losses due to the pollution. US$500 million might be an attractive number; still, it is rather hard to make the comparison with the actual losses. Because based on the comprehensive statistics we have so far, there are already over 4 million people impacted among the coastal provinces of Middle Vietnam. In addition, those money are paid by FPC and had fallen directly into the pocket of CPV, and there is not any method that can make sure the victims in this incident can substantially obtain the money.

Under the assistance from the local priests such as You-nam Deng and Ting-shu Nguyen, a part of victims who do not receive any kind of compensation headed to the local court to file the lawsuit for several times, but the court revoked the indictment and refused to accept it. Furthermore, thousands of the petitioners were abused and hit violently by the authorities just to stop them. Father Ting-shu Nguyen, who had ever been to Taiwan to make the proclamation regarding the pollution event, is now prohibited to leave his own country by the CPV. Although JFFV was founded in the US by those Vietnamese who left the country after the end of Vietnam War, we feel heartbroken and share the same grief with victims of this incident because they don`t have any help nor support in Vietnam, also because they are not treated fair and just. Despite of the long distance of where we live from Vietnam, we still have the same blood flowing in our veins, and we shall not hesitate to seek righteousness for our own people. Hence, we decide to file the lawsuit against FPC in the place where they were established.

We believe the Taiwanese jurisdiction can descend a fair and just trial for the FPC victims who are longing for righteousness over these years. On the other hand, we appeal that FPC should take the responsibilities immediately to face and to see into the deeds caused by them, and make their best effort to recover the polluted ocean, as well as compensating the residents. Then FPC can regain their reputation and good will, and all the domestic and foreign people will be grateful for the contribution toward the sustainable economic development of Vietnam.

Philippe Larochelle, the Attorney represented for JFFV, indicated, that FPC apologized to the CPV and paid a handsome amount of peacemaking money at US$500 million at the end of Jun 2016. Nevertheless, the actual amount of money distributed to the population who live around the pollutional impacting areas is only US$130 (less than NT$4,000) per family unit. Such the negligible money can’t totally match what those people have lost at all. Besides, the so-called “compensation plan” has been criticized by a lot of non-profit organizations and social movement pioneers because FPC does not conduct any full assessment nor measurement for the damage and losses, and the lack of transparency and public participation in the plan itself.

Moreover, the Vietnamese administration has many controversial disputes with the International Human Rights Law regarding their attitude and measure for this pollution incident. For example, one of the most crucial principles among the International Human Rights Law is the effective relief, assuring the basic human rights. Whoever violates these rights will be condemned for sure. Also this right is precisely defined in Article 8 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2.3 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In Vietnam, there is also the Article 63 stated in the Constitution, that any organization or group should take full obligation to rescue, relieve and compensate all the damage and losses of which one has caused. Still, in the case of FHTSC, it is apparently that it has critically violated the right of effective relief. This is because that not only most of the fishers and their families who are in suffering are impeded layer by layer to claim their compensations appropriately, but their basic human rights are also disgrace severely.

The pollution has influenced so many people`s health, their food, communities, jobs and living. There too are many illness cases that have been confirmed to be related with swimming in the polluted waters, or being fed with the contaminated seafood. Many medical experts report that certain specific poisonous pollutants can result in the higher risks concerning stomach cancer and colorectal cancer. Furthermore, it becomes the firm proof for the poisonous fish that the Vietnam authorities issued the ban on fish catch almost at the same time. Chief officer of the Vietnamese Ministry of Health further admitted that the safety of seafood regarding the polluted area can’t be 100% promised any more even though the waters return to the standard of safe International laws give us the equal rights to health and food. Article 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights also describes that everyone owns the rights to a proper standard of living for one`s own health and benefits, including the right to food. Moreover, both the rights to health as well as food are also confirmed in Article 11 and 12 of The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Additionally, the right to social security is directly linked to the rights to heath and food, which is also protected under Article 34 of the Vietnamese Constitution. Beside, event of the perishing of an enormous number of fish and unsafe food resulted from FHTSC, has brought out the serious consequence to the fishing industry and all the workers thereof. Many people`s right to work, as well as the right to choose a job freely are taken away due to the actions of FPC and the ignorance of the Vietnamese government.

Say, the authorities suggested that the fishers can change their job and become a farmer. But farming is way different from fishing, rice is also not fish. This proposal is confirmed to be impractical. Also, the occupational training supported by the government is not provided to those victims contacted via JFFV. Even more, those families need to move out from their hometowns and life they are familiar with, to the strange place suitable for cultivation due to the change of farmer`s life as the costs.

The pollution incident also makes a lot of local fishers move abroad, for example, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea or China. Many of them are force to leave their home out of the financial dilemma, but not because they can use the free will to choose their new jobs. It is this unfair treatment of labour causing a longer term of what they feel about their future and their jobs. Many people are forced to pay the agency fees at a very high price (thousands of USD) to the human resources agencies founded by the Vietnam administration independently or jointly. Hence, many Vietnamese workers are crushed by the endless debts, causing that a lot of children grow up with the absence of their parents, and the marriages lose the functions.

Many related articles of the International Bill of Human Rights have assured the right to work. Article 23.1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
further states that every individual has the rights to work, and to freely choose a job; also, one should have the rights to fair and proper working conditions, as well as to be protected from unemployment. Article 6 of ICESCR
also precisely marks that we own the right to not be treated unfairly and not be dismissed by any injustice, which this right is also described in details in General Comments 18. Additionally, Article 25.1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
further ensures the right to human safety under any circumstance over which one cannot control during unemployment.

Any brave critic on the ineffectiveness of the treatment for this pollution incident, or on the non-transparency and inappropriateness of the procedures of compensation from the Vietnamese citizens only results in the stricter punishment from the Vietnamese administration. After the FHTSC incident, the Vietnamese authorities systematically quell the protests and parades of people, restricting the freedom of speech of people who try voicing for their complaints about FHTSC.

The Vietnam society has stepped into a national repression pattern after their government takes the measures to silence, arrest and sentence those who dare to dispute. This behaviour has led the condemnation from various organizations of human rights in the UN, including Human Rights Council and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and there are also many international groups to continually record the situations and cases of violations of human rights by the CPV.
A public society of freedom must contain a certain basic elements, including the right to information, the right to free speech and the right to assembly. Under this plot of society, all the citizens are freely to ask their government for obligation. All these basic right and liberty have been repeatedly guaranteed, reaffirmed and detailed all over the countless texts regarding International Human Rights. The most obvious template is Articles 19 and 20 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 19 and 21 of ICCPR. Besides these regulations, Article 25 of Vietnamese Constitution also has the correspondent content.

According to the preceding paragraphs, Vietnam should assume the duty both actively and inactively to make sure all these basic human rights can be protected and realized. The government should not only approve the free and fluent information, but the people should also be allowed to voice for what they stand without any barrier. Neither should the administration extinguish the different opinions, not limit the rights and freedom of people to legally present these comments. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese government does not seem to cherish nor value these rights.

FHTSC is a subsidiary of FPC. FPC is a global enterprise, who devotes itself on producing all kinds of plastic raw materials and other comprehensive materials, such as fibre, textile products, dyes and electronic devices. One thing worthy to be mentioned is, that this corporation also has a bad record, regarding that it ignores its own factories to cause the local environmental pollution. Meanwhile, the corporation and its transnational subsidiary which is located in the US had been fined at an unimaginable amount of penalty and been indicted due to the emission of poisonous chemicals down to the earth and underground water, especially in Texas, Louisiana, as well as Mississippi.
The enterprise, FPC, has caused an immense and serious impact to the Vietnamese, and violated several human rights. FPC should not conceal themselves behind the Vietnamese government, keeping ignoring their crimes and invasion of the basic human rights of those Vietnamese people, and doing nothing to assure the protection of the adequate administrative procedures regarding judicial relief. We hope that the indictment can call the justice, and the proper punishment can be descended upon FPC. Furthermore, we hope that FPC should take their legal obligation for their subsidiary, and for all the numerous losses they have caused.

Press Contact:

Tu Yu-wen (CEO of ERF) 0920472677
Nguyen Van Hung (VMWIO) 0922641743