A Place Named Hope . . .

On Thursday August 16, Taiwan’s Vice President Wu attended the swearing-in ceremony of Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina. Earlier in the day, Wu held talks with high-level officials from several other diplomatic allies of Taiwan, who were also in the Dominican Republic for the swearing-in ceremony. Wu noted that most of Taiwan’s reconstruction projects after the Haitian earthquake have been completed, including the “New Hope” housing project that was carried out by the Red Cross Society of the ROC.
Wu gave the assurance that Taiwan will continue to help with Haiti’s reconstruction and development. Issues concerning bilateral trade, investment and educational cooperation were discussed in a separate meeting between Wu and Guatemala Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros. The Dominican Republic is the first leg of Wu’s current visit to the region, with Belize as the next stop.
The devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti claimed over 200,000 lives. At the time of the quake, there were about 230 Mainland Chinese nationals in Haiti, eight were meeting with the chief of the United Nations mission in Haiti at the Hotel Christopher, the headquarters of the 9,000-member strong U.N. peacekeeping force that has patrolled Haiti since the ousting of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
Mainland China has few investments in Haiti as Haiti maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, making visits by high-ranking Mainland Chinese a delicate issue. Haiti has been a firm ally of Taiwan since 1956, and has received millions of dollars in aid as a result.
When the five-story Hotel Christopher building collapsed in the quake, Mainland China faced the tricky problem of protecting its nationals still in Haiti, and recovering the bodies of their fallen countrymen.  Once China’s eight-member police delegation was recovered, the team ceased its work at the U.N. site and it was later rumoured that they had been seen departing the country, which provoked criticism that China’s efforts in Haiti were motivated by narrow-minded nationalism.
In fact, while some members of the initial Chinese rescue mission did soon return to China, others in the team stayed behind to deliver medical care to a badly damaged sector of Port-au-Prince. Taiwan and Mainland China were working, if not together then at least with the same goal in mind, to help Haiti.
Chinese and Taiwanese aid to Haiti immediately after the earthquake totaled about $5.4 million each. Taipei matched Beijing’s aid, but did not surpass China’s contribution, which it could easily have done; the “diplomatic truce” with Beijing promoted by Taiwanese President Ma would not allow any flare up of rivalry.
Two weeks after the earthquake, President Ma met with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive during a “transit summit” at the Santo Domingo airport. After delivering 10 tons of food and medical supplies, the Taiwanese leader outlined a four-point assistance plan for Haiti in the areas of public health, housing, job creation, and the adoption of orphaned children.
Hope Village, which was constructed by the OECC Construction Company, is a resettlement project funded and built by Taiwan to house 1,000 people who lost their homes. The OECC is a construction company formed by various Taiwanese syndicates to handle infrastructure projects funded by the ROC government in Haiti and Taiwan’s other diplomatic allies. Hope village includes housing for 200 families, an elementary school and a dormitory for the teaching faculty. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the
Red Cross Society of Taiwan jointly sponsored the US$ 5,500,000 project.  The village, located 230 km from the capital, Port-au-Prince, is equipped with a solar-powered lighting system and four water storage facilities. The Taiwan Red Cross Society has purchased school uniforms for the children of the village.

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