International Alliance Holds Hunger Strike, Seeks Justice for Victims of Formosa’s Industrial Pollution From Vietnam to Texas to Louisiana

On October 31, 75-year-old Diane Wilson, International Monitor Formosa Alliance (IMFA), and hundreds of people around the world launched a hunger strike in solidarity to demand that Formosa Plastics Group and its subsidiaries take action to adequately address the Ha Tinh steel plant’s 2016 industrial pollution disaster. As the environmental toll of industrial pollution globally grows with the size of polluting industries including Formosa Plastics Group, more communities are suffering from the ecological, health, and social injustices of being targeted for polluting infrastructure and activities. 

IMFA co-founder Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimp boat captain who has spent more than 30 years documenting Formosa Plastics Group’s pollution, led the hunger strike in front of Gate 3 of the Formosa Plastics plant in Point Comfort, Texas, throughout November. IMFA is an international alliance representing human rights, peace, justice, environmental, and commercial fishing organizations that seeks justice for victims of Formosa’s industrial pollution in Vietnam—and beyond. Following the 30-day strike, the 24/7 encampment inspired by Wilson’s leadership continues to be occupied indefinitely in the same spot by activists calling for change. IMFA was established last year by Wilson of San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, with Nancy Bui of Justice for Formosa Victims, and Sharon Lavigne of Rise St. James, largely to rally behind Vietnamese fisherpeople’s quest for justice.

Formosa Plastics Group is a Taiwan-founded industrial conglomerate currently operating in eight countries and nearly 100 companies, including many heavy industries such as petrochemicals, plastics, and steel. In 2016, the company discharged toxic waste from its steelworks at Ha Tinh, Vietnam, into local waterways. This disaster killed huge numbers of fish and other marine animals, hurting the local environment impacting more than four million people living across four different provinces of Vietnam. It decimated the livelihoods of more than 179,000 fisherpeople in the region. Formosa even publicly admitted it caused the pollution after scientists revealed the pollution.

As a result of its pollution being brought to light, Formosa pledged to pay $500 million to the Vietnamese government to pay out those impacted—but how it came up with that figure was unclear. What’s more, due to legal loopholes and government collusion, tens of thousands of people received no payment and others received compensation that did not match their losses. More than 7,000 Vietnamese fisherpeople have received no cleanup or compensation from the company, causing elevated rates of unemployment and poverty. Lawsuits calling for action have been dismissed. Those who have called for an independent investigation, oversight, and transparency have been intimidated and harmed, and currently, 24 people remain imprisoned.

Hunger Strike for Justice in Vietnam

Diane Wilson, surrounded by supporters from Houston, TX, and Lake Charles, LA, communities, in front of Formosa Plastics at Point Comfort during her hunger strike kickoff event on October 31, 2023. Photo by IMFA
Diane Wilson, surrounded by supporters from Houston, TX, and Lake Charles, LA, communities, in front of Formosa Plastics at Point Comfort during her hunger strike kickoff event on October 31, 2023. Photo by IMFA

During the hunger strike, which ended on November 30, participants and supporters underscored their demands that Formosa Plastics Group and its subsidiaries take action to adequately address the Ha Tinh disaster, including to

  1. Provide equitable and fair compensation directly to the victims.
  2. 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.
  3. Advocate for the immediate release of all political prisoners associated with the cause.
  4. 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 daily, 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, including Plastic Pollution Coalition. Company officials have acknowledged receipt of the letter, but there has yet to be any other response. 

Read IMFA co-founder Nancy Bui’s recent letter to Formosa Plastics Group here.

On the 30th day of the hunger strike, Diane Wilson and Nancy Bùi entered the administration office to deliver a 6-point demand letter to Michael River, the Manager of the Formosa Plant at Point Comfort, urging him to forward the letter to the Chairman of Formosa Plastics Group in Taiwan. Photo by IMFA
On the 30th day of the hunger strike, Diane Wilson and Nancy Bùi entered the administration office to deliver a 6-point demand letter to Mike Rivet, Executive Director of Formosa Plastics, TX, at its Point Comfort plant, urging him to forward the letter to the Chairman of Formosa Plastics Group in Taiwan. Photo by IMFA

Following the hunger strike, IMFA’s demands remain unchanged. Activists are calling the latest stage of their campaign #OccupyFormosaPlastics as an encampment is maintained at Formosa’s Point Comfort, Texas, petrochemical and plastics factory. Wilson and other activists have pressed for accountability in Texas, too, where Formosa has faced numerous costly penalties for its pollution, particularly of microplastics, as well as serious explosions, fires, and toxic chemical releases into waterways.

IMFA is a “Vital Alliance”

Father Peter Nguyen Văn Hùng and a group of Vietnamese labor workers in Taiwan protesting to express their support for Diane's hunger strike. Photo by IMFA
Father Peter Nguyen Văn Hùng and a group of Vietnamese labor workers in Taiwan protesting to express their support for the hunger strike. Photo by IMFA

IMFA works to amplify the voices of people facing corporate negligence in Vietnam, Texas, and everywhere else Formosa Plastics Group and other industries have caused serious environmental, health, and human rights issues due to their pollution and practices. The group was formed in 2022 by a leading group of activists facing Formosa in their local communities. 

In March 2019, Nancy Bui of Justice for Formosa Victims brought together a coalition of Vietnamese Americans who traveled to Point Comfort, Texas, to support the San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper and Diane Wilson in their lawsuit against Formosa Plastics, Texas, and Formosa Plastics, USA. Later that year, Formosa would pay $50 million, the largest settlement ever won in a Clean Water Act suit filed by an individual, for pollution monitoring and prevention. Bui and Wilson’s collaboration also came about as Sharon Lavigne of RISE St. James worked with her community to stop Formosa’s proposed 2,400-acre, $12-billion plastic factory called the “Sunshine Project.” 

Brought together by their activism, Bui, Wilson, and Lavigne advocate for people all over the world who are harmed and threatened by Formosa’s industrial businesses. The company has been accused or found guilty of polluting in every country in which it operates. Unfortunately, Formosa is one of many industrial corporations polluting the planet and, particularly in the most systemically oppressed and underserved communities—particularly those that are rural, poor, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). 

Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and two priests from the Formosa disaster-affected area protested in front of Formosa Steel Ha Tinh, the site of the 2016 environmental disaster, to show solidarity with the hunger strike. Photo by IMFA
Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and two priests from the Formosa disaster-affected area protested in front of Formosa Steel Ha Tinh, the site of the 2016 environmental disaster, to show solidarity with the hunger strike. Photo by IMFA

Take Action 

Formosa Plastics is responsible for devastation across the world. In Texas, they illegally released billions of plastic pellets into waterways for years. In Louisiana, they’re trying to build a giant plastics complex in an area so polluted that it’s nicknamed Cancer Alley. And in 2016, a Formosa plant’s toxic release ruined the livelihoods of MILLIONS of people in Vietnam. IMFA and frontline communities need your help to call on Formosa to take responsibility, provide compensation for victims, support the release of prisoners, and clean up its act in Vietnam and beyond. 

Support those speaking out at the front lines at the encampment in Point Comfort. Donate to the encampment here

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