These pieces of legislation remain unchanged despite the lifting of martial law, retaining the same form that they had when Taiwan was ruled by an authoritarian regime and when a minority consisting of the political elite and technocrats monopolized decisionmaking. Ordinary people have no say.
It was all of Liu’s doing. Under this system, land is a commodity to be bought and sold; to invest in and make money from. However, for Chang and his family, their land was home and their means of survival. They relied upon and had an emotional attachment to the 20m2 of land on which the family pharmacy stood. You cannot put a price on that. This is why land and property ownership is a basic human right.
There is never a time when the expropriation of land is necessary; it is a violation of human rights and should be strictly forbidden. Such measures are very rarely taken in advanced countries. If the system in Taiwan is not changed, human rights violations will continue as the government continues to wantonly wrest people’s land from them.
Minister of the Interior Lee Hung-yuan (李鴻源) has argued that land expropriation is needed if there are to be public construction projects. He is wrong. Land expropriation does not happen in advanced countries, but those nations have public construction projects.
Land expropriation in Taiwan is not about freeing land for public construction projects anyway. In most cases it is more about land speculation.
It is too late for Chang, but perhaps his death was not in vain. Everybody should do their best to make sure that these unsuitable laws are revised to create a government that truly works for the public.
Hsu Shih-jung is chairman of the Taiwan Rural Front and an economics professor at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Paul Cooper