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June 23, 2017

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Demonstrators decry problem-riddled eTag

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Demonstrations were staged yesterday at the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC, 交通部) and at the Neihu-based headquarters of Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co. (FETC, 遠通電收), where protestors voiced discontent over the eTag electronic toll collection (ETC) system, which has been riddled with issues since its launch late last year.

According to reports, the demonstrations were organized by Robin Kung, a retired motor sports announcer, and Citizen 1985, the elusive organization behind large-scale protests over the death of an army corporal last year.

Over 200 individuals congregated before the MOTC and FETC, including 50 motorists who arrived at the scene with their vehicles. Protesters shouted slogans against alleged collusion between the government and big business, while appealing for laid off toll collection employees, who were also present at yesterday's protest.

Acting as the de facto leader of the "Anti-eTag Avengers" (反eTag復仇者聯盟) movement, Kung employed the gesture of waving a black flag, using the motor sports signal for disqualification to express the discontent of the people against the government's hastily implemented eTag system while leading yesterday's demonstration. Kung led the protesters in demanding the government guarantee that personal information would not be leaked and difficulties from opting out of the eTag system would be resolved, and also led appeals for the employment rights of laid off toll collectors.

Mayoral hopefuls Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and Wellington Ku (顧立雄) also joined the ranks of protesters yesterday.

Ko stated that although he does not consider himself a motorist and has not installed the eTag device on his vehicle, he remains outraged at the aftermath of the eTag's issues-ridden launch. Ko sait he was especially furious at the government's arrogance, as no MOTC official sallied forth to acknowledge the people's grievances, despite the 200-strong congregation of demonstrators before its office.

Douglas Hsu (徐旭東), the chairman of the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團), the parent company of FETC, must retract a previous statement made to the public, Ku said yesterday. Hsu had previously stated that the public is welcome to cancel their eTag service, but warned motorists of potential difficulties in accessing freeways without it. The statement was widely considered among members of the public to be an arrogant taunt from a business magnate, causing tremendous outrage, and Hsu needs to apologize, said Ku. In addition, people should not be required to relinquish their privacy to corporations, said Ku, while commenting on the ramifications of the eTag's system's tracking of motorists' activities on Taiwan's freeways. In this vein, the eTag system should be nationalized, according to Ku.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau (高公局) announced that the FETC has been given a three-month grace period, and the government will consider ending its contract with the company if improvements are deemed inadequate.

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