What you need to know
Despite paying US$500m in damages and admitting it dumped toxic substance in rivers, there may be longer-term implications from the Formosa Plastics fish scandal.
Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp (FHS), a steel plant under parent company the Formosa Plastics Group, on Thursday accepted responsibility for killing large quantitires of fish off the central Vietnam coastline and agreed to provide US$500 million in compensation.
On May 1, hundreds of Vietnamese protested against FHS, holding signs demanding the company detail what had caused the disaster, and for FHS to be held responsible.
The Taiwan-owned company has now apologized to the Vietnamese people and government. It admitted toxic substances in wastewater from its steel factory — including phenol and cyanide — caused the deaths. It said it hopes to regain the trust of the Vietnamese by strictly following environmental laws.
The Vietnam government released a report into the incident on June 30, blaming FHS for the mass fish deaths. It is believed that the US$500 million fine will be the largest fine a single company has ever paid to the Vietnamese government.
The incident is believed to have damaged Taiwan's international reputation and could hinder President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) new southbound policy.
Taiwanese legislators have urged the government to re-think the policy and tighten the review process on Taiwanese investments in Southeast Asia.
In April, a public relations director for the company exacerbated the situation when he said the Vietnamese should make a choice between steel plants and catching fish. He was quoted as saying, “Fish or factory, choose one!“
The statement prompted Vietnamese protesters to launch campaigns urging the public to pay attention to the issue. People took to social media to post comments and images with the hashtag #tôichọncá, meaning “I choose fish.”
This was not the first controversy related to FHS in Vietnam. In 2014 May, Vietnamese youth attacked its factory, leading to four people killed and 140 injured. FHS was accused of enjoying privileges from the Vietnam government while hiring workers from China instead of locals.
First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang