POINT COMFORT, TEXAS — Following a 30-day hunger strike by 2023 Goldman Prize winner Diane Wilson in front of Gate 3 of the Formosa Plastics plant in Point Comfort, Texas, the 24/7 encampment inspired by Diane’s leadership will continue indefinitely in the same spot.
Recognizing the rapid deterioration of the 75-year-old activist’s health more than four weeks into her hunger strike, medical professionals urged an immediate end to the hunger strike or else risk losing Diane’s life. “We made the difficult decision to end the hunger strike even as we continue the 24/7 encampment outside of the Formosa Plastics facility here in Texas,” said Diane Wilson, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Water Keeper , at a press conference on Wednesday, November 29th. “We live to fight another day, and we will not be moved from the trenches outside this polluting facility until our demands are met for justice in Vietnam!”
Diane Wilson and her fellow International Monitor Formosa Alliance (IMFA) co-founders – Nancy Bui with Justice for Formosa Victims, and 2021 Goldman Prize winner Sharon Lavigne with RISE St. James – have announced that the ongoing encampment will not end until Formosa Plastics Group responds adequately to the following demands for justice:
- Provide equitable and fair compensation directly to the 2016 Formosa Ha Tinh Steel disaster victims.
- Commission an independent inquiry to confirm the cessation of pollution, cleanup of the impacted environment, and restoration of the livelihoods and communities of those affected.
- Advocate for the immediate release of all political prisoners associated with the cause.
- Cooperate fully with any investigations into Formosa Plastics Group and subsidiaries.
These demands are outlined in an organizational sign-on letter representing more than 7.5 million people that Diane and fellow activists have been hand delivering to Formosa Plastics on a daily basis, which includes the support of major national and international groups, including Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Earth US, the Center for International Environment Law, EarthDay.org, Break Free From Plastic, and many more. Company officials have acknowledged receipt of the letter, but there has yet to be any other response.
In 2016, a toxic spill by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel mill, a subsidiary of the Formosa Plastics Group, devastated Vietnam's coastal environment and killed the marine life upon which 179,000 fishermen in the region rely for their livelihood. In fact, it was the largest environmental disaster in the country’s history, affecting the lives of nearly 5 million people in at least four provinces in central Vietnam: Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien.
To this day, adequate compensation for more than 7,000 victims of the 2016 Formosa Ha Tinh Steel disaster has yet to be seen, resulting in higher rates of unemployment and poverty. Calls for independent investigation, oversight, and transparency have been suppressed mainly through intimidation and imprisonment.
After nearly three months of denial and attempts to cover up responsibility, Formosa Plastics publicly admitted guilt on June 30, 2016, in response to a survey by more than 100 scientists inside and outside Vietnam. The company immediately pledged to pay USD $500 million, but did not conduct a study to assess the actual damages. Unfortunately, both Formosa Plastics and the Vietnamese government have refused to publicize the results of this study, citing it as a matter of national security. This represents a serious violation of both the victims’ human rights and the broader public’s right to know what happened here. In this way, both corporate and government officials have only added insult to the terrible injuries inflicted by Formosa Plastics.
The social disaster following the environmental disaster is that Formosa Plastics paid USD $500 million to the Vietnamese government without directly compensating the victims. As a result, some victims received compensation that did not match their losses, and tens of thousands received no payment. Victims who filed lawsuits in Vietnamese courts had their cases rejected, and those who appealed were arrested, brutally beaten, and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Currently, 24 people remain imprisoned.
Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and some priests from the affected regions traveled to Europe to meet with the United Nations and organizations defending the environment and human rights. This group then visited the United States to present the suffering and plight of the victims. In January 2017, the Justice for Formosa Victims (JFFV) organization was established with the sole purpose of helping victims seek justice for the 2016 Formosa Ha Tinh Steel disaster.
In June 2019, with the support of the overseas Vietnamese community in collaboration with environmental and human rights organizations in Taiwan and the United States, two law firms in Taiwan represented 7,874 victims in a lawsuit against Formosa in a Taiwanese court. After two rejections, in October 2020, the Supreme Court of Taiwan allowed the victims to sue Formosa. However, over the past four years, Formosa has exploited legal loopholes, prolonging the case by demanding paperwork they know the victims cannot provide, such as power of attorney that local security agencies and the Vietnamese government must notarize. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese government increases repression by arresting, imprisoning, and threatening those who speak out about the Formosa lawsuit. Some plaintiffs, out of fear, withdrew their complaints.
In September 2023, a protester named Hoang Van Lan was arrested. On October 31, 2023, a priest who stood in front of the Formosa plant in Ha Tinh, Vietnam, with a banner supporting Diane’s hunger strike was monitored, and surveillance cameras were installed at his church by local police. Hundreds more are still on the run as the Vietnamese government continues to pursue them. Unable to claim their fundamental human rights, the victims have had to appeal to the outside world for help.
Diane Wilson and fellow IMFA activists invite like-minded activists to join them as part of the 24/7 encampment in front of the Formosa Plastics industrial park in Point Comfort, Texas, U.S. All are welcome.
Photos and videos are available upon request.
US Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic