Wed, Sep 25, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Lives sacrificed for development

By Chan Shun-kuei 詹順貴

On July 18, Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) took advantage of a window of opportunity to demolish four houses in Jhunan Township’s (竹南) Dapu Borough (大埔). Chang Sen-wen (張森文), the owner of a pharmacy located in one of the buildings, never got over the sorrow of seeing his home reduced to rubble. Two months after the demolition and on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Chang was found dead.

His body was found in an irrigation channel some time after he went out for a morning walk. Was it suicide or just a freak accident?

His death recalls that of Lai Shao-pen (賴紹本), director of the Jhunan Township Land Office, whose body was found floating in the township’s Longfong Harbor (龍鳳漁港) on May 31, 2011. Suspicions about Lai’s apparent suicide remain unanswered. The Miaoli District Prosecutors’ Office should reveal the truth about what happened to Chang.

Lai’s mysterious death may or may not have been connected with the Dapu demolition case, but the affair has now taken at least three lives: Wu Kuo-kuang (吳國光), who died of a brain hemorrhage on Sept. 29, 2009, followed by Chu Feng Min (朱馮敏), who died after ingesting weed killer on Aug. 3, 2010, and now Chang. All these people’s lives were ruined by the system, but will the government that controls the system ever be held to account?

Chang was an honest and down-to-earth person who liked to keep his thoughts to himself. He came under a great deal of pressure over his opposition to land expropriation in Dapu, and anxiety over the threatened demolition of his home and shop took a great toll on him. As time went by, he became depressed. At the end of June he retired from his job as a civil servant, intending to devote all his time and energy to protecting his home.

Then, all of a sudden, he received a notice from to the Miaoli County Government telling his family to move out within a certain period, after which the houses would be demolished. Chang suffered a mental breakdown and was taken to a hospital.

After staying in a psychiatric ward at the Shin Kong Hospital for nearly three weeks, he asked to be allowed to go home. The psychiatrist in charge of his case reluctantly agreed to his request, thinking that if he went home he would have his family members to keep him company, while the task of building a new home could help him deal with his depression.

However, after leaving the hospital, Chang still could not come to terms with the destruction of his home. He hardly spoke to anybody and rarely went out. Finally, on Wednesday last week, came the sad news of his death.

It may well be that he chose that day, exactly two months after his house was forcibly demolished, to end his life as an agonizing protest against a cold-hearted and merciless government. I firmly believe that the deaths of these Dapu residents whose houses have been demolished result from the ruthless demolitions carried out under Liu’s orders.

The Taichung High Administrative Court refused to grant an injunction to stop the demolition, because it believed that money can compensate people for the destruction of their homes. That view in effect gives the green light to the rich and powerful to seize other people’s land and homes.

Now Chang’s name has been added to the list of victims. Do the three judges who turned down the injunction think that money can also compensate Chang’s family for his death?

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