Speech of Rev. Nguyen Van Hung, Representative of the Justice for Formosa’s Victims (JFFV) At the Press Conference at Taiwan Supreme Court on April 17, 2020

Father Hung held a bouquet

Photo credit: EJA

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On March 20, 2020, the Higher Court of Taiwan dismissed a lawsuit filed by 7,875 victims of an environmental disaster caused by Ha Tinh Steel Formosa Corporation. The victims have been grieved and disappointed by the district and higher courts’ decision to not hear the case against the Formosa Group for their responsibility in destroying the marine environment and with that the victims’ material and spiritual lives.

The cases were rejected with the reasons that the incident occurred in Vietnam and the judges in the High Court felt that Vietnam should have jurisdiction over the suits, and the victims will have a fair trial in Vietnam.

Neither the district court nor the higher courts examined the records of the thousands of victims before making the decision to legislate in Vietnam. The executive, legislative and judicial system is within one branch of government in Vietnam and they hold absolute power. There is no system of checks and balances when the Vietnam government is determined to protect Formosa. Formosa continues to lobby hard against accountability and has been known to payoff government officials to escape culpability. Furthermore, the Vietnamese government continues to systematically punished people who speak out against Formosa. The government of Vietnam and Formosa are working together on all aspects of the case and are controlling how the $500 million in damages awarded to the victims is spent. There is no oversight on how and if the compensation is even getting to the victims who need it most.

A large number of the people who have filed lawsuits in Taiwan courts are those who have never been compensated or were given inadequate compensation for their damages.

Though these victims filed applications with more than sufficient evidence to file in Vietnamese court, their applications were returned on the grounds of insufficient evidence. However, the Vietnamese court did not specify what additional evidence they were required to provide. When they then tried to file for an appeal, they were brutally beaten by the state police, resulting in lifelong disabilities for many of the victims who had already lost so much. Many people have been arrested and imprisoned for harsh sentences of up to 20 years. There are many people who have had to flee and are still hiding because they are afraid of further punishment for seeking damages or just voicing their voice on behalf of the victims.

Our lawyers have testimonies and material evidence of the above claims. We are here today before the Supreme Court of Taiwan, with an earnest petition asking the court to examine the victims’ records so that their voice can be heard and justice can be served. We strongly feel that the victims can only have a fair hearing within Taiwan’s independent and democratic courts.

Although the Taiwan High Court has reasoned that investigating the incident will be difficult because it happened in Vietnam, we are confident that the court will find a way to solve this problem. It is challenging, but not impossible, whereas it will be impossible for the victims to have a fair trial before a Vietnamese court.

The victims’ lives have been shattered since this disaster. Due to the loss of their livelihood, a large number of fishermen, seafood traders, and owners of net weaving workshops, restaurants and repair shops now have to leave their families in search of new employment in the southern provinces of Vietnam or leave to other countries like Cambodia, Laos, or even further to South Korea, Japan, China, and even Taiwan. Low salaries coupled with the high costs of living; means they can only send back meager savings to their families. There are countless scenes of homes without mothers and fathers and of children living with grandparents, uncles and aunts because their parents have to move far away for work. The family separation has caused much grief and emotional trauma for a generation of children who will grow up without the education, love and support of their parents.

Taiwan has always been a proud, progressive country that has fought for democracy, freedom and fairness in Asia. The world has watched and acknowledged, Taiwan’s success in fighting the COVID Virus from Wu Hang. Much praise and acknowledgement have been given to Taiwan’s medical and scientific achievements which were instrumental in preventing the outbreak of the pandemic within its borders.

We are sure that the victims’ lawsuit against Formosa for causing the environmental pollution in central Vietnam is also being monitored by the world. If Taiwan does not give the victims an opportunity to bring the Taiwanese companies who exploited the resources of less developed and poorer countries to court to be accountable for their acts, the world will question how much Taiwan truly values democracy, freedom and fairness.

We are making an earnest plea to allow the victims of the environmental disaster caused by the Formosa and its counterpart to have their case fairly heard in Taiwan.

Thank you sincerely and wishing health and peace to you and your family.