What you need to know
A Daguan Community resident speaks ahead of the March 18 forced demolition of the village by the New Taipei city government.
By Chenhuang Jinju, Translated by Brian Hioe
New Bloom editor Chenhuang Jinju interviewed Daguan Community resident Zhou Xiang-ping on March 9, 2019. Daguan Community residents currently face the forced demolition of their homes by the New Taipei city government on March 18. The following is a transcript of their interview.
Chenhuang Jinju: Could I ask you to first introduce yourself?
Zhou Xiang-ping: I’m Zhou Xiang-ping. I was born here. My family came here in Minguo 48 (1959). We lived here and did business. My mother sold red bean soup and our home has been here for 60 years.
CJ: Daguan Community is continually threatened with eviction. The government gave notice on March 6 that the community will be demolished on March 18? How are local residents reacting to this?
ZXP: Some people are looking for means of self-defense, since they’ve become panicky after receiving this notice. One view everyone seems to share is: “What should we do? Now what?” But we plan to continue meeting and to continue protesting.
Now some of our residents are looking for houses and desperately trying to fix them up to move over. But for me, my feelings are a bit more complicated. I was born here. My father’s things are all here. I don’t know where to move any of this. My father is longer with us, I spent a long time organizing his clothes yesterday.
What many residents are wondering is if they have enough money to pay for a move. Some families—such as ours—are just trying to figure out what to do, since we have no money to pay for a deposit or rent! Some are wondering if they should sign for a housing loan agreement from the government, to be put in public housing. Xu Ping is an example, she lives two houses down from mine. She’s already accepted a housing loan.
But you know what kind of house she’ll be moving to? A haunted house! She has no option but to move, it’s the only house in Banqiao that’s available. The students will accompany Xu Ping to sign the agreement tomorrow. This is something which shouldn’t have happened to begin with.
CJ: For the government, if it’s not forcibly evicting you, then they would use various laws to fine you money, such as claiming this is “unjust enrichment”. If they do come in and demolish the community, they will fine you money. However, the majority of Daguan residents are relatively poorer. How would they afford this?
ZXP: It’s like this with our family. My mother is currently being sued. She currently receives half of her salary. The government won’t deduct her half-salary, since she needs that to survive. If the government wants to fine us, it won’t get anything, because I don’t have any money. Other residents’ money has already been fined by the government, there’s nothing left. If any residents are abroad, let’s say on vacation, I’m sure they’ll be very, very shocked when they come back and find there’s nothing left in their bank accounts.
What would we have to pay if our houses are demolished? If they make us pay “unjust enrichment”, that’s five years rent. That includes paying lawyers for a losing case, compensating the police for their expenses, surveyors, the public prosecutor, etc. Moreover, on March 18, construction cranes and police will come, but we’ll have to shoulder the expenses. It’s quite a lot!
I still should protest, shouldn’t I? Our family already has many issues. Even paying rent is tough, so we’ve borrowed money all over the place! Like Tang Jia-mei, she has to go to her boss’ factory. The day at the protest, she gave a full account of her situation, she cried and kneeled, but the government has no intention of backing down.
Looking at the situation as a whole, all of us Daguan residents are like ants. We’re being stamped out, but there’s nothing we can do about it.
CJ: Is anything you want to state in particular regarding what actions are planned for March 18? Whether with regards to the students that are involved, or any professors or white collar workers.
ZXP: I’m very happy that you came here today. This is the last tour of Daguan we’re offering. Holding so many tours for visitors, I’m always telling any students that come about how what the government is doing that is wrong. Many netizens are criticizing us on the Internet. It’s not just the Self-Help Association that is responding to them, I’ve also been responding to them online. If they don’t accept how things are, that’s their business. I don’t know either. I’m only stating the facts.
About March 18…I’m not sure what I should say. [Sighs] It’s the Monday after next. I want to ask everyone: I’m a resident here, I don’t know if we should try to stop the eviction or not. I’ve asked many other residents, such as Su Hua, who is currently in Sanchung. She doesn’t even have a home now. At the press conference that day, she said to us, “I will definitely support you. I’ll ride my bicycle here on March 18.”
All these groups from the outside have come to help us. Why don’t we take stronger action? Whether we should try to stop them or not, I really don’t know. Everyone’s come…but it’s just so painful.
CJ: Is there anything you’d like to say in closing? Whether to international readers or anyone else.
ZXP: I’m just a woman, bluntly speaking. In a few years, I’ll be past 50. I don’t know how much energy I have left to keep protesting. Of all the social issues in Taiwan right now, Daguan is the one that’s most fearful. Whether it’s the Veterans’ Affairs Council, the DPP, or any other ruling party, they want to kill us all to the last man.
What I want to say is that, if you don’t protest, you won’t get anything. Even if you lose, you have to fight until the very end.
We’re talking about a home here. A family with real people that are in this home. If we don’t have a home, where are we supposed to go? Issues with homelessness in Taiwan are all because of the government. I don’t know if we’ll become homeless. I really don’t know. Because we still have faith that the Self-Help Association can save us, that it can help us, and help us overcome this.
What I’d like to say is that, if there’s anyone who is facing issues of eviction, you must stand up and fight. If you don’t have a home, there’s no point if you have work, because you have nowhere to return to. I’ve also given up on school, which was supposed to finish on March 18th anyway. Right now, I still have my home. If I don’t see my home being forcibly demolished with my own eyes, I’ll regret this for the rest of my life. I can get my degree if I just go back to school again, right? So, I have to protest to the end. I’m not just protesting for the sake of protesting, I know very clearly why I’m protesting. I’m protesting for this.
CJ: It’s not just for your own home, it’s because a neighborhood is a place with many homes, no?
ZXP: Yes, that’s right. Thank you.
CJ: Thank you very much.
The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The original post was published on New Bloom here.
Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)
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