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September 21, 2017

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Activists protest Malaysian refinery plan

TAIPEI -- A group of activists from Malaysia staged a protest in Taipei Thursday against a plan by Taiwan's Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. to move a controversial refinery project to their country.

Led by Johor State Legislative Assembly members Tan Hong Pin, Ee Chin Li and Chua Wee Beng, the activists gathered in front of the Presidential Office to voice their opposition to the investment plan.

They later delivered a letter of protest to the government.

At issue is a plan by Kuokuang, a subsidiary of the state-run oil refinery CPC Corp., to invest in a refinery and petrochemical complex located in Pengerang in the southern Malaysian state of Johor.

Kuokuang had originally planned to build a similar complex in Changhua, central Taiwan, but was forced to scrap the project in 2011 because it failed to pass local environmental assessments, and the company eventually decided to move it overseas.

"Malaysia is not a dumping ground," said Chua Peng Seng, acting chairman of the Pengerang NGO Alliance, which is promoting a civic campaign to save Pengerang, originally a serene fishing village, from industrial pollution.

According to Tan, Pengerang is famous for its seafood, especially lobster, and is a major habitat of the manatee, an endangered species.

The establishment of a petrochemical industry there will severely damage the local ecology and water resources, Tan warned.

"We welcome all sectors to visit and invest in Pengerang, but not if they want to build highly polluting plants there," he said.

In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it respects the opinions of the Malaysian protesters.

The Kuokuang investment plan is still undergoing an evaluation process in Malaysia, and the ministry has been tracking public opinion in the Southeast Asian country on the issue, said James Chou, deputy director-general of the Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

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