As Friday’s “deadline” approached for the demolition of four families’ homes in Dapu (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南), to make way for — hear this — roads around a planned science park, I headed for the Executive Yuan in Taipei to observe yet another round of protests by the home owners, farmers, and their supporters, who hours earlier had been forcefully removed from the area ahead of a regular meeting inside the EY.
|Police await at the EY|
No wonder. The anger over the injustice at Dapu has been rising, and people are growing sick and tired of being lied to by local county heads and some of the most senior of government officials in Taipei. Not only had then-premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) broken his promise, made in 2010, to halt the demolitions, but the now vice president has distanced himself from such expectations in recent days, saying he had never made such a vow. To add insult to injury, he now claims that his intervention had been for the sake of facilitating negotiations, which had succeeded in convincing 20 of the 24 households to agree to have their houses demolished. Earlier this week, he compared this achievement to an exam, saying that anyone who obtained a 98 percent grade should be happy — as if those 2 percent were not human beings, but mere marks on a paper. What he also not mentioned is the fact that the 20 households that finally did agree to be evicted did so under duress and very likely were compelled to pick the least bad of the options given them (some had agreed even before compensation was offered, and were understandably miffed when they realized that others were being offered a bit of money). Even for those who did get financial compensation, the amount offered per household — about NT$900,000, or US$32,000 — is insufficient to help them acquire new land (the government has offered to sell them some plots) and build a new house. In most cases, the relocation will leave them by as much as $3 million in the red.
One resident, 72-year-old Chu Feng Min (朱馮敏), committed suicide to protest the land seizures back in 2010.
Meanwhile, appeals to Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to intervene in the case have fallen on deaf ears, and Jiang has said that the decision whether to proceed with the demolitions rests with Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻), whose ethics and sense of justice can only be likened to those of a Chicago gangster. Jiang, who before becoming premier had been a professor at National Taiwan University and had studied the political thoughts of no less a figure than the German-American political theorist Hannah Arendt, seems to have lost sight of his alleged liberal views, something that isn’t unusual for individuals who enter government.
|Peng Hsiu-chun, left, with her ailing husband|
|Melee on the EY grounds|
Then things calmed down, and the clashes ended. The dozens of activists who had managed to cross over to the EY lawn were let go, and one final press conference was held before the crowd started dispersing.
|Protesters on the EY side|
There have been so many such instances in the past year that it is difficult not to feel powerless. One has every reason to be uplifted by the mobilization of people — students, professors and civil society — in support of the weak against the predations of the state, but the unresponsiveness of this government, the seeming inability to connect with the victims as humans to humans, is deplorable. In my home country of Canada, crooks like Liu would be behind bars (as seen recently in Toronto and Montreal); here, not only do they get away with it, but even the central government, “liberals” like Jiang, assist them in their activities by looking the other way.
Something will have to give. Let us hope there’s a special place in hell for the people behind this type of behavior. (All pictures by the author)