By Trista di Genova
The Wild East magazine
On June 9, Diane Wilson, a Code Pink co-founder and activist, was arrested after she doused and blackened herself with fake petroleum during an energy hearing in the U.S. Senate.
Wilson was voicing anger over BP’s lack of liability in the catastrophic spill that has devastated the shrimping industry along the Gulf coast, and specifically protesting Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s blocking of a bill that would have lifted the oil giant’s liability cap. See the video here.
Then on June 17th, Wilson again infiltrated the halls of the U.S. Congress, this time to confront BP CEO Tony Hayward during his testimony, demanding his arrest as well as a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling. She stood up and shouted “Arrest this man, he is a criminal, his company is stealing the livelihoods of thousands of us in the Gulf and killing our coasts. Tony Hayward should be arrested.”
Instead, the distraught shrimper was again arrested.
So Formosa Petrochemicals shareholders were gobsmacked when Diane Wilson showed up at a hotel in Taipei on June 25th for their annual meeting, with an entourage even!
What is the connection, and how did Diane manage to pull this stunt off?
Diane Wilson is a fourth generation shrimper from Texas. In 1989, she read an article about the Formosa Plastics Group, that it was planning its largest expansion ever in the U.S. This was even after it hadn’t met an environmental impact assessment and was, she’d discovered, responsible for having polluted her bay.
Then more recently, Formosa and its management — the Y. C. Wang Family, Formosa Plastics President Lee Chih-tsuen, and other Formosa executives – were nominated by the organizations Savethesouza.com, and the German Ethics and Economics Foundation (Ethecon.org), for the ignominious Black Planet Award in 2009, which took place at a ceremony in Berlin last November.
Ethecon asked environmental organizations to present the award to Formosa Plastics here in Taiwan.
Wild at Heart, an environmental legal defense organization, also had been collaborating with Wilson for several months to publish her book, “An Unreasonable Woman,” chronicling her struggle with Formosa Plastics (now available in Chinese in Taiwan), and had invited Wilson to come for the chance to present the ‘award’.
To gear up for the ‘award ceremony,’ environmentalists declared a mock “Formosa Plastics Month”, during which they took out bus ads beginning May 17th, featuring an image of Taiwan’s Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant facility in Kaohsiung spewing clouds of smoke, while frightened-looking children beg “give us back our clean air, soil and groundwater”… and the large, red Chinese character for “shame.”
Ads were taken out on 23 buses, along 12 Taipei bus routes, including the one passing in front of Formosa Plastics Groups’ own headquarters, and its hospital. However, by the end of the 17th, someone had apparently already tipped off Formosa, and the big red character for “shame” had been ripped out. By the 18th all the ads were down. The sponsoring environmentalist groups were partially refunded, while the bus company scrambled to say “it wasn’t us,” and Formosa Plastics threatened to sue the advertising agent.
In the meantime, on the 18th, Diane was in Washington DC, getting arrested for the second time after she dumped a quart of fake oil all over herself, and publicly accused Alaska Sen. Murkowski of sleeping with the oil companies.
“We were afraid she wasn’t going to make it,” environmentalists here said, and called to check on Diane’s progress in police custody in the U.S., anxious she mightn’t be able to make her flight. They said, ‘Don’t worry, she’ll be released’. And she managed to arrive safely on the 21st.
Diane was first taken to the Taiwan Alkali Industrial Corporation (TAIC) plant in Tainan, a huge toxic waste area infamous now for its high levels of dioxin, DDT and other pollution
(More background here). Then it was on to Chiayi to meet with environmentalists there. She was originally scheduled to visit Changhua and Yunlin counties, where new petrochemical plants and expansions are being planned, but was instead requested by local environmental groups to attend a hearing on the Kuokuang Petrochemical Park project. She testified in Taipei at the EPA on Wednesday morning, and Thursday morning, she helped make a presentation against Kuokuang corporation’s bid for land in Changhua County for the proposed plants. Members of the Legislative Yuan itself, Taiwan’s parliament had invited her to take part in a dialogue with injured RCA workers on Thursday afternoon.
Security at the Sunworld Dynasty Hotel in Taipei, site of the Formosa Plastics Group shareholders’ meeting, was according to FPG as quoted in the Apple Daily, the tightest it’d been in 56 years. Nevertheless, environmentalists held a 1 o’clock press conference; at 1:50 pm Diane swept down from the 3rd floor after taking the elevator from the upper floor — where she’d checked into her hotel room the night before — to announce she’d grant the Black Planet Award at 2pm. Then, the group of about a dozen activists made its way into the meeting, as many held shares in the company and were therefore entitled to attend.
Recounted one of the group’s members: “We all kept moving forward, and one of our group opened the door from the inside. So the room bursts open and we flood in, 12 of us, including Diane. Then the blackshirts, (gangster types) come in, sit down and people say, ‘We wanna have meeting’, so we sit down, on the floor. Five or ten minutes later, the police came” and forced the ‘intruders’ out.