Taiwan's Municipalities Under Pressure to Resolve Land Disputes

Taiwan's Municipalities Under Pressure to Resolve Land Disputes
Photo Credit:張馨云
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Residents in Kaohsiung and Tainan are accusing their municipal governments of not respecting them as land disputes heat up.

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Recent development projects that, according to critics, have been hastily pushed forward by the Kaohsiung and Tainan city governments have many wondering if these two cities are still the “democratic strongholds” of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), The News Lens reports.

On Sept. 1, the Kaohsiung City Council forcibly demolished three houses around a wholesale fruit and vegetable market. The move called into question Kaohsiung’s status as a “Human Rights City,” a title the city received when it joined the People’s Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) Human Rights City program in 2003.

▶︎ See also: "Protesters Pressure Tsai on Land Expropriation"

The area around the market is prone to flooding, and TNL reports that the city council plans to convert the area into a new market that can prevent floods. However, one resident, surnamed Huang, whose family has lived there since the 1960s, told TNL that “the residents were never given the chance to voice their concerns over the demolitions.”

The historic Dagoding Old Street (大溝頂) in the Cishan district of Kaohsiung also faces demolition as part of a project to fix Kaohsiung’s drainage systems. The government began inspections of 33 buildings above the drainage pipe in March, and requested residents to evict the premises by April 30. Demolitions were planned for June 16, but the project has been put on hold due to opposition from the residents.

A local anti-eviction group told TNL that since no water flows into the drainpipe, “what is there to fix?”

A 2014 proposal for a roadway that will cut through the Cieding Wetlands (茄萣濕地) in Kaohsiung has also come under fire for allegedly disregarding the environmental impact. The proposed roadway will cut directly through the endangered black-faced spoonbills’ roosting sites; the project nevertheless passed an environmental review on Aug. 31.

According to TNL, the advantages of building the roadway are negligible, as it would only save 90 seconds of travel time between Cieding District and Shinda Harbor (興達港).

However, some local residents have expressed support for the project as they believe it will bring young people back to work in the area.

Jiding Village (吉定里) borough chief Hsueh Hsien-cheng (薛賢成) told News & Market that the road would make traveling in Kaohsiung easier.

“In fact, the government should develop the wetlands into industrial areas or a yachting area so our young people can have jobs,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Tainan City Government has also been criticized by residents around the Tainan Train Station whose homes face demolition to make way for new underground train tracks.

The Tainan City Government proposed underground tracks to be built under the existing ones in 1991, and borrowed land from the surrounding residents to build temporary tracks during the construction period of the underground ones. In 2009, plans for the new tracks were moved east of the train station onto “borrowed land,” turning what started out as “borrowed land” into land being expropriated by the government. Over 400 residents will lose their homes, and 309 buildings will be torn down if the project is carried out.

Although residents have formed an alliance to protest the project, the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency approved the proposal on Aug. 9.

More than 40 groups opposing forced evictions staged a protest on Ketagalan Boulevard on Sept. 5. The groups have vowed to continue protests on Sept. 25 if the Tsai Ing-wen administration does not do anything to resolve the matter.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole