Tue, Sep 04, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Land expropriations are robbery

By Hsu Shih-jung 徐世榮

Zone expropriations have sparked many fierce clashes in Taiwan over the last few years, such as those in Miaoli County’s Dapu Village (大埔), the Erchongpu (二重埔) area and the Puyu (璞玉) project in Hsinchu County, the Wunshan (文山) industrial zone in Greater Taichung, the zone around station A7 of the Metro line that will eventually run between Taipei and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and the Port of Taipei in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Bali (八里) District.

Unfortunately, the government has failed to reflect on these incidents and amend laws, regulations and policies to ameliorate them. On the contrary, it is preparing to launch a second wave of zone expropriations covering even bigger areas, such as the second-phase Danhai New Town (淡海新市鎮) development project, covering 1,154 hectares, and the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, with an area of 4,686 hectares. These expropriations are likely to provoke even bigger protests.

Zone expropriations are employed in government-led land development projects and involve the government forcing landowners to take part in joint construction. These members of the public are left with only two choices. One is to accept monetary compensation and move elsewhere, and the other is to apply for land ownership as alternative compensation.

Zone expropriations usually happen when agricultural land is re-categorized as urban land. The official value of farmland is generally well below its market value. Because farmers do not stand to get much in the way of monetary compensation, many people are forced to apply for land instead of money.

However, this option can be just as unfair. There are questions about where the land that will be awarded is located and how much will be given. These key issues should be settled when a joint construction project is initiated, but are often left completely blank and then decided by drawing lots at a later date. What kind of joint construction is that? It is not joint construction at all, it is daylight robbery.

Naturally, many people do not want to go along with this kind of deal, but the government still forcibly includes their land in the area covered by zone expropriations. Once that has happened, landowners have no way to refuse participating in the project. Due to this unfairness, land expropriations are often met with protests.

In order to avoid encountering too much resistance, the government takes into account such factors as the strength of those opposed, the benefits to be gained from developing the land and the influence of political factions and voter support before embarking on an expropriation.

Based on these considerations, the government often assigns extremely irregular and strangely shaped areas for zone expropriation, and this is another point that is frequently questioned by people whose land is being expropriated and who are wondering why their land was included, but their neighbor’s was not even though they are both part of the same block.

When people ask this kind of question and actually get the government to reply, it usually does so in very vague terms, using phrases such as “obstructing the overall developmental aims of the urban renewal project” or “altering the principles of surveying and selection in zone expropriation.”

As to what those aims and principles actually are, no clear explanation is offered. This way of handling things is extremely unreasonable and not at all in keeping with the basic requirements of administrative procedure in a democratic country.Given that zone expropriations are generally associated with newly formulated or revised urban plans, the high number of such projects is an indication of how urban planning has got out of hand.

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