Just as illegal structures can be seen everywhere across the nation, the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan is an “illegal structure.”
In urban and rural areas, the percentage of illegal structures is excessive; the situation is out of control. As a result, the government has adopted a buffering method by which it temporarily postpones demolishing old illegal buildings while demolishing new illegal units as soon as they are reported to it.
The day after a fire broke out at an illegal rooftop addition in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) and killed the tenant in December last year, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) ordered that numbers should be assigned to the city’s illegal rooftop additions and that they should then be demolished in that order. Ko also declared that he would not accept intervention or lobbying by any city councilor in connection with illegal construction cases.
In Greater Taoyuan’s Sinwu District (新屋), a blaze broke out at an illegally built bowling alley last month, killing six young firefighters. Deadly fires like this happen all too frequently. These problems are the result of old ones that have accumulated for years, and they can be seen everywhere in the country.
After the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) invaded and occupied Taiwan, where even the state is an illegal structure, the only rule of law was the rule that people’s minds should be politically controlled while the state continued to do as it pleased.
In particular, the rule of the ROC has been restricted to Taiwan since the KMT government occupied it in 1949. In response to losing its legal status as a state, the KMT government consolidated colonial rule in Taiwan through various “provisional articles.” For example, the cancelation of re-elections of representatives of the National Assembly, the Legislative Yuan and the Control Yuan during the long period of Martial Law was just the tip of the iceberg. The situation might have changed, but the KMT government’s attitude has remained the same.
As the government plays with the law, the public also plays with the government. The huge number of illegal structures can be seen as the result of all these provisional articles. Looking at the city from above, illegal rooftop additions and balconies can be seen jutting out of messy and ugly edifices.
The authorities are sitting back and watching as the problem of illegal structures worsens. It has become so widespread, it can no longer be handled by law enforcement. After having seen how the government made a joke of the law during the Martial Law era, the public no longer takes the government or the law seriously.
Furthermore, the “red envelope” culture, which continues unabated, also functions as a protective umbrella. The result is that even some luxury mansions are providing public space in exchange for government incentives. In reality, these owners block the public and keep it for their own private use once construction is completed. One could argue that those luxury mansions also are illegal buildings in a sense.
The ROC in Taiwan is an illegal structure. From a legal perspective, its status is consolidated through distorted administrative power, and the state apparatus remains colonial in nature. To continue occupying Taiwan, the KMT government is willing to call itself “Chinese Taipei,” and it has turned its own anthem and flag into the national anthem and flag. However, as soon as the ROC operates outside of Taiwan in the international community, it has to change its name and appearance. When it deals with China, it merely does so in the name of the KMT. And the ROC? It is going nowhere.
Lee Min-yung is a poet.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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