April 2~8, 2012
Christian youths join masses in protest over controversial urban project’s infringement of dwelling rights
Reported by Simon Lin
Written by Lydia Ma
The Taipei City government forcibly evicted a family surnamed Wang on March 28, 2012 from their home in Shilin District to make way for a new housing complex, which is part of a bigger urban renewal project known as the Wenlin Yuan Urban Renewal Project. According to reports, it issued permits to Le Young Construction to rezone and pre-sell housing units before construction and before obtaining consent from the Wang family, who owned the land and had repeatedly declined to sell.
On the day of the eviction, the city government dispatched about 1,000 police officers to the site to forcibly expel nearly 300 protesters, mostly college students and professors, who had come to support the Wang family and defend their rights. Backhoes were sent to demolish the house on that day though there were still people inside the house, prompting outrage and fear from the crowd as it became clear that, “If they demolish the Wang’s house today, then, they may well demolish my house tomorrow.”
This incident has now become the focus of news reports across Taiwan, prompting backlash in many quarters. Those who support the Wang family are demanding an immediate examination of the constitutionality of this project and a change in policies governing urban development.
On March 29, which happened to be Youth Day in Taiwan, Rev. Yang Po-wen from Taipei College Ministry Committee brought a dozen of church youths and some students from Taiwan Theological College and Seminary (TTCS) to attend a protest held in front of Taipei City Hall. It became a good opportunity to turn faith into action by supporting the weak and oppressed.
According to the Alliance of Victims of Urban Renewal Project, when the city government handed out building permits to Le Young Construction before ensuring that an agreement with residents in the area had been secured, its utter disregard for residents’ rights was obvious. The Alliance said that the Wang’s were not notified that their land would be appropriated until the very last minute – long after the land had been rezoned and sold to a third party by Le Young Construction.
Current laws stipulate that as long as a construction firm has obtained the consent of 75 percent of the property owners on a site, it can ask the government to demolish the rest of the buildings without the consent of the remaining owners. However, allegations by Le Young Construction that only a very small fraction of residents in that neighborhood had opposed the project are false because as many as 43% of area residents had opposed the project but were pressured into giving up their lands.
DPP legislator Yu Mei-nu said that the Wang’s were not the kind of people to intentionally raise the price of a house to NT$200 million to make a profit. The reason they set such a price was to discourage Le Young from trying to acquire the land in which their family has lived for 6 generations. However, not only did Le Young bribe the media into discrediting the Wang’s, it also misled the other 36 households into giving up their homes.
On March 29, some students decided to go to Taipei City Council to protest against the city’s mayor, Hau Lung-bin. Upon hearing this news and seeing how this event would be a good opportunity for Christian youths to become socially active and live out their faith, a few staff from Taipei College Ministry invited students to attend. They were later joined by 7 other students from TTCS.
When they arrived at the square in front of the Taipei City Council, students took turns voicing their views on these urban renewal projects. Taiwan Seminary Student Chiang Chih-hao said these projects should be undertaken with respect for people’s right to property at all times and if a minority of people do not want to move, their wishes should nevertheless be respected and an alternative plan should then be devised. Another student said bluntly that the government had broken the 10th Commandment wherein God commands his people not to covet other people’s possessions, which includes houses. TTCS students and faculty vowed to participate in future marches to support dwelling rights.