Songshan Airport Eviction Slips under Radar

Songshan Airport Eviction Slips under Radar
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

The head of the Songshan Airport Forced Eviction Self-Help Organization had his own home forcibly demolished.

The demolition last week of the home of Guo Tai-song (郭泰松), the head of the Songshan Airport Forced Eviction Self-Help Organization, has raised questions but has not caused the hue and cry you might expect among Taiwanese activists.

Guo’s home was demolished by the Ministry of National Defense, which claimed the building was on government property and that Guo was illegally inhabiting it. Guo insists that he bought the property fairly and that he is the rightful owner.

Guo and his wife attempted to prevent the eviction and had to be forcibly dragged away by police. Though the Ministry of Defense claims that the Guo's were given two eviction notices in the weeks before the demolition, the family claims that they were, in fact, only given 15 minutes to clear out their belongings.

While police loaded some of the Guo family's belongings into boxes and moved them out of the building, eyewitnesses such as former Sunflower Movement activist and current candidate for Taipei City council Wang Yi-kai (王奕凱) reported on social media that the demolition took place before police had asked the Guo family for an alternative address to send relevant legal documents. The Guo family has stated that they see themselves as lucky that their son happened to be at school when the eviction took place.

What is clear from the legal history of the property is that Guo’s home was originally government property, but passed through many different hands, and saw many different usages, including as a storefront. The Guo family had lived in the building for 20 years.

Murky property ownership practices are commonplace in Taiwan, with the legal status of many properties existing in a gray zone whereby properties are “sold” to unsuspecting homeowners by people who do not actually own them. Likewise, relevant authorities in some cases suddenly decide residences to have been illegal despite allowing them stand for a number of years, sometimes so long as to lead residents to believe that they are legal. It is not impossible that this is what has befallen the Guo family. On the other hand, as with many other eviction cases, the Guo family may be accused of simply raising a fuss in order to try and secure a better settlement from the government.

Nonetheless, forced evictions by the Ministry of National Defense in the Songshan Airport area have been protested by local residents for some time. As a result, given Guo Tai-Song’s status as head of the Songshan Airport Forced Eviction Self-Help Organization, it is tempting to wonder whether the eviction could be a form of retribution.

The truth remains to be seen. However, the case points to a broader range of ongoing forced eviction cases across Taiwan. In Taipei alone, this includes the demolition of a man’s home on Chan’an West Road in March last year, as well as the eviction of the Daguan Community. In 2017, forced eviction cases comprised protests in Taichung against the demolition of historic sites, protests in Kaohsiung against the forced eviction of the elderly residents of a housing complex adjacent to a fruit and vegetable market in Sanmin District, more protests in Kaohsiung against the eviction of residents of Dagouding Street, whose homes were slated to be demolished to make way for a drainage canal, and protests in Tainan regarding the demolition of historic farmland.

Such cases will likely continue, particularly after the Tsai administration’s Forward-Looking Infrastructure Bill preserved provisions for forced evictions for the sake of development. However, it remains to be seen whether a wave of evictions leads to protests on the scale of similar past actions against evictions and demolitions in Dapu, Miaoli County, around the Shilin Wang family home in Taipei, or the capital's Huaguang Community in past years.

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The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The original post was published on New Bloom here.

TNL Editor: David Green