In April 2013, Yuanli Self-Help Group was founded to protest against the wind turbine built by IntraVest, a German-based wind energy enterprise. The group claimed that IntraVest ignored the residents’ opinions before building wind turbines. 20 residents and students tied themselves to the motor base of the windmills with iron chains. Some of them even threw themselves beneath the construction vehicles in attempt to stop the construction. The protesters were indicted for coercion offence.

Last year, the defendants were sentenced innocent before the prosecutor appealed against the verdict. On February 25, after a three-year trial, the Taiwan High Court Taichung Branch Court dismissed the appeal and acquitted all the protesters.

IntraVest had built wind turbines near the Yuangang Fish Harbor, and the Yuanli Self-Help Group queried that it would bring damage to the local environment and natural ecology. As a result, the group launched a sit-in protest to express their disagreement. However, both sides clashed when the police asked the activists to leave the site. After that, 14 college students and six residents were charged for coercion offence.

Fighting for justice

During the trials, duty lawyers, students and residents all advocated for “safeguarding our hometown and the freedom of speech,” considering themselves as representatives of housing justice. After the Taiwan Miaoli District Court acquitted them of the offence, the prosecutor appealed to the High Court. The court gave the final verdict of acquittal.

Chen Chung-hsin, a 35-year-old resident and defendant, said he tried to get under a crane to stop the construction and was sued. After receiving the verdict, he said, “This was a justice delayed, but evil cannot prevail over good after all. We appreciate the judicial system proving our innocence.”

Also a demonstrator and a village chief now, Chen Hui-ming says, “After the demonstration, IntraVest demolished the wind turbine by themselves, indicating that they know they were wrong. We knew that justice was on our side and we would be acquitted eventually.”

Yuanli Self-Help Group said, renewable energy development is an essential part of the energy structure of Taiwan. However, it cannot be “violently achieved.” The wind turbines built by IntraVest were only at the distance of 60 to 250 meters from the neighborhood, which was far closer than the international safe distance of 470 to 700 meters.

According to The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, a renowned medical journal, the low-frequency noise produced by wind turbines is likely to provoke wind turbine syndrome. Patients might have problems like sleeping disorder, headaches, dizziness and so on. This was the reason for the residents to protest against those wind turbines.

After two years of negotiation, Yuanli Self-Help Group has reached an agreement with the wind energy company. They agreed to demolish the two controversial wind turbines and keep the other two. After gaining victory at the lawsuit, the self-help group will continue urging the government to draft laws to protect the interest of the people.

Edited by Olivia Yang

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