Amid a public outcry over the controversial land grab case in Dapu Borough (大埔), in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南), a planned project in Greater Tainan to move railroad tracks underground has sparked a new wave of concern over another possible forced demolition of residential properties.
The project, which was approved by the Executive Yuan in 2009, aimed to move an 8km long stretch of railroad track underground. To facilitate the project, the Greater Tainan Government plans to demolish more than 400 houses on the east side of the current tracks in downtown Tainan. When the project is completed, the original surface tracks are to be removed to make way for a park and a commercial district.
The land expropriation case in Greater Tainan has sparked protest from some households who accused Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) of reaping the benefits of land expropriation and disregarding people’s property rights. They urged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to pay as much attention to the case as it has to condemning Miaoli County Government Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over his handling of the Dapu case.
Lai has insisted that the railroad project in Tainan is completely different from the Dapu case, because the expropriation of 62 hectares of land in Dapu was to benefit developers, with most of the seized land to be used to build residential and commercial complexes. The railroad project in Greater Tainan, on the other hand, is a major public construction project, with much of the land to be used for road construction to benefit the city, Lai said.
He also accused Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) of politicizing the issue and misleading the public by claiming that the Dapu and Greater Tainan cases shared similarities because both are land expropriations.
However valiantly government officials try to defend the two different land expropriation cases, the public should watch the two cases closely and continue to press authorities to respect the rights of the people in affected households.
Anger over the Dapu case and other controversial urban renewal projects, including the Huaguang (華光) community and the Wenlin Yuan (文林苑) case, in which the rights of house owners who refused to relocate were sacrificed, should be redirected to prevent any injustice against the residents in the Greater Tainan railroad underground project and other ongoing cases.
Both President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and the opposition camp should quit playing the blame game and recognize disputes over land expropriation cases as political issues.
The nation will only witness more land expropriation cases in the name of urban redevelopment, and more mass and individual protests will be launched against unfair or corrupt expropriations and forced demolitions of privately owned properties.
The administrative and the legislative branches should discuss revision of the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例), as anti-land-grab advocates continue to urge the government to scrap zone expropriation and have compensations be decided by three real-estate appraisers, instead of by the government’s land evaluation commission.
As politicians should stop politicizing the issue, the public must also look beyond party lines in monitoring the authorities’ handling of land expropriation cases to defend the rights of residents amid a growing number of urban renewal projects.