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Lunch with Hualien Magistrate Hsu

The ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch with Hsu Chen-Wei, Magistrate of Hualien County (equivalent to mayor), to coincide with her visit to Taipei. The event was arranged as part of the ECCT’s efforts as a nationwide organisation to foster relations and business opportunities all across Taiwan. At the event, Magistrate Hsu gave a presentation in which she introduced her county and gave an update on tourism and business development opportunities in the county and plans for net zero emissions by 2050.

Hualien is Taiwan's largest county by area but is relatively sparsely populated (with a population of just 320,000). It is a magnet for tourists given its spectacular scenery (including the ocean and 43 of Taiwan’s most popular 100 mountain peaks), clean air and water, slow pace of living and well-developed tourism infrastructure. This includes 14 star-rated hotels and dozens of B&Bs. Hualien was a pioneer in promoting sustainable tourism with a focus on quality and meaningful experiences. It was the first to ban the use of single use toiletries in hotels. These efforts have been recognized via a number of awards the county has won, both from international and local organisations. Magistrate Hsu introduced a number of tourist attractions as well projects under development, including the building of malls, hotels, a camping area and upgrading disused tobacco factories and a port for whale watching.

In terms of healthcare, Hualien has the country’s second highest ratio of medical personnel to population, according to Hsu. With 18.9% of the population over the age of 65, Magistrate Hsu has focused a lot of attention on improving the health and welfare of senior citizens. According to the magistrate, Hualien leads the nation in the quality of healthcare offered to seniors. For example, it boasts the highest portion of over-65s to undergo health checks and is the only region to offer free herpes vaccines to seniors. To help improve mental health and wellbeing, over 300 recreation centres for seniors have been set up. According to Hsu, singing songs, a favourite pastime of many seniors that is one of the activities on offer at the centres, is actually a form of exercise as well as beneficial to mental health.

Hualien is Taiwan's leader in organic products, according to Hsu. This was helped by her government's passing of regulations to support the promotion of organic products. The county already has over 3,000 hectares of land dedicated to organic produce, the highest land area of any single county in Taiwan.

Magistrate Hsu is committed to promoting youth and women's development. She established the Youth Entrepreneurship Center and Startup Base to create more job opportunities for young people. Hualien also boasts four universities to develop young talent. The county also provides subsidies to students to study abroad. Hualien was also a pioneer in promoting remote learning even before the coronavirus pandemic.

On the county's net zero plans, Magistrate Hsu said that she has 16 strategies and 66 plans. These include carbon sequestration efforts through blue carbon (ocean), green carbon (forests), and yellow carbon (valleys) initiatives. This includes keeping the surrounding oceans clean and natural forest preservation efforts. Among carbon reduction efforts, the DAKA Resource Recovery Center is designed to process and utilise up to 200 tons of waste per day. The PuShiKe Biomass Energy Center, located in Yuli Township, is the first livestock manure biogas power generation facility in Taiwan. She also mentioned a campaign to encourage people to switch to vegetarian diets at least one meal a day in order to reduce their food carbon footprints.

In the Q&A Magistrate Hsu said she welcomed investments from ECCT members in the county's development projects as well as renewable energy projects, including geothermal, given some good locations and opportunities for geothermal energy in the county.