TAIPEI — Orchid Island residents on Tuesday asked critics of a plan by President Chain Store Corp. to put a 7-Eleven convenience store on the remote outpost to mind their own business.
“They’ve had convenience stores in their lives, but they’re not willing to let Orchid Island have them,” said Shaman Lumabi, who stressed that the islanders’ lives would not change because of the arrival of the store.
The critics, including former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Frank Hsieh, worry that the outlet will bring changes to local culture and life that “cannot be easily calculated.”
“7-Eleven could be the next evil spirit for Orchid Island after the nuclear waste (stored there),” said writer Liu Ke-hsiang, who expressed concern about the convenience store bringing a materialistic mentality to the traditionally communal society.
One resident, who only gave the name Shaman, said the issue was none of the business of outsiders and asked why the Tao people who live on Orchid Island be considered a rare species of animal that must be protected and excluded from modern conveniences.
He said that a supermarket run by the Taitung Farmers’ Association has operated on the island for a long time, yet has not had any impact on local culture.
Another resident named Shi Madeneng said the Tao people won’t forget who they are simply because of the store, and asked that the critics “please give Orchid Island a chance.”
A local woman surnamed Li welcomed the convenience store, saying on her Facebook page that “a group of arrogant people think they know the island better than the local people after just one trip here.”
“Those who oppose the convenience stores on Orchid Island should get the stores out of their own neighborhoods first,” she wrote.
Another woman who owns a traditional grocery store in Hungtou, a small village on the island, dismissed opponents’ worries that convenience stores will force local grocery stores out of business.
“Local people, especially the elders, like to come to my store, because I speak their dialect, and they feel close to me,” she said.
The criticism came after President Chain Store said on July 11 when it opened its 5,000th store in the country in Kaohsiung that the chain’s first store on Orchid Island would open for business on Aug. 8.
But the company said Wednesday that the plan has not yet been finalized, apparently because of the outcry of the critics.
The chain store has outlets on all of Taiwan’s outlying islands expect for Orchid Island, which is populated by 3,000 Tao people.