Protests broke out in Tainan last week as authorities began to tear down the last two homes set to make way for a railway expansion project.

Opponents of the project, called the Tainan Urban District Railway Underground Project, questioned the necessity and legitimacy of the railway’s eastern expansion. In 2012, most of the 340 households that were required to vacate for the project formed a self-help advocacy group to fight for their homes.

While most of them have yielded and agreed to relocate over the years, two have carried on with their battles: the Huang and Chen families.

Despite their resistance, Chen’s family home has been completely demolished. The house, owned by the chairman of the self-help organization Chen Chih-hsiao, was knocked down after his elderly parents and his sisters were evicted.

中工處奇襲  強拆南鐵地下化拒遷戶(1)

Photo Credit: 中央社

A scene from the Tainan Ministry of Transportation and Communication's "surprise attack" on the holdouts resisting forceful eviction, October 13, 2020.

Located in Tainan’s North District, the demolition of Huang Chun-hsiang’s family house particularly outraged the public as Huang’s mother is 99 years old. The Huang family is still holding out, their house having been partially torn down after an overnight confrontation between activists and police.

“First, the city government refused to hold negotiations with us, as we had requested to avoid demolition, then it suddenly decided to start the demolition during the negotiations,” Chen said. “I can only say that I had underestimated the shamelessness of the Democratic Progressive Party.”

Initiated in 1993, the Tainan Urban District Railway Underground Project was passed in 2009 under former President Ma Ying-jeou's administration. It went into operation in 2012 when current Vice President William Lai was still the mayor of Tainan. From its conception, the project has taken 27 years and is only half-finished. Controversies over forced evictions have delayed the expected date of completion to 2028.

“The city government would not easily give up communicating until the very last minute, but things have to come to an end,” Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-cher told reporters. “[We] would prioritize the compensation for evicted residents.”

As the demolition of the Huang house went on, several protesters clashed with the construction workers.

Meanwhile, several protesters were injured during an attempt to forcefully break into the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC). They insisted that the stairs of Huang’s home should remain intact to allow passage between the ground floor and the first floor, which would allow the Huang's to continue residing in their home. The MOTC promised to postpone the demolition until October 27 and reevaluate its necessity.

The self-help organization contends that it is possible to build the permanent railway underground under the current railway. In this way, the land could be given back to the residents.

In April, however, judges announced that the railway project is not against the public interest, and is therefore allowed to proceed.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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