With a typhoon lashing the nation over the long Mid-Autumn Festival weekend, the demolition of a building owned by Taipei resident Luo Chin-kuang (羅進光), like countless others before it, has already faded from memory — except from Luo’s.
However, Luo’s story is a typical one about the rights of the minority pitted against a majority. It also provides Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) administration with a perfect study of how to make sure that an urban renewal project remains within legal boundaries — which was not the way the city government handled Luo’s situation.
At first, the demolition of Luo’s building seemed like the lawless act of a big developer, bullying an average citizen, but that is not entirely true. His building was on a plot of land that had been zoned for urban renewal, one where the 79 other landowners favored the project. Luo was the sole holdout.
Luo’s steadfast opposition to the project has its roots in his devotion to feng shui; he believes that demolishing his house would bring Taiwan bad luck. The other landowners said their neighborhood was a “slum” and the development project would breathe life into the area.
The dramatic divide between Luo and the others reportedly led to dozens of negotiations that spanned more than two years before the denouement on Friday last week.
The law clearly speaks in favor of the project’s supporters, who together hold more than 80 percent of the land and property rights to the site, thereby meeting the legal requirement to submit a renewal plan to the city government.
However, under Article 36 of the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例), contractor Pacific Construction Co’s seemingly sudden decision to demolish Luo’s building appears to contravene the law. The company did not ask the Taipei City Government to intervene after Luo failed to tear down or relocate his building within 30 days of the project’s announcement.
Luo’s talks of the arcane might have created a distance between him and the media, as well as activists campaigning for land justice. However, if he had received enough public attention, his case could have easily evolved into a second Dapu (大埔) incident, with the Taipei City Government taking the role of the big bad wolf that was previously played by the Miaoli County Government.
Miaoli authorities in July last year demolished four houses on land the county had expropriated for an expansion of the Jhunan Science Park. Although the project had the support of 98 percent of landowners, four families were holdouts, and their resistance led to protests by activists and a lawsuit — which the four won.
Demolishing homes is always going to be a controversial issue. It cannot be divided into simple percentages, which hardly represents the actuality, especially when a large number of stakeholders are involved, as with the central government-led land expropriation for the Aerotropolis project in Taoyuan.
However, it would be going overboard to sacrifice the interests of the majority for the rights of the minority in every case. Urban renewal projects call for due public debate over their legitimacy and, if necessary, change in legislature to ensure that disputes stemming from them are settled as fairly as possible.
The Taipei City Government’s refusal to comment on the legality of Pacific Construction’s actions — beyond saying that the firm had a permit for the demolition — could be detrimental to the city’s urban renewal projects, because of the bad example that it sets. Other developers and construction firms might be tempted to copy Pacific Construction’s tactics.
Ko’s administration, which has always trumpeted transparency, has waded into dangerous waters by not rebuking or punishing Pacific Construction.
To deter potential copycats, it should take action against the firm’s disregard for legal procedures.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a ceremony on July 30 officially commissioned China’s BeiDou-3 satellite navigation system. The constellation of satellites, which is now fully operational, was completed six months ahead of schedule. Its deployment means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now in possession of an autonomous, global satellite navigation system to rival the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and the EU’s Galileo. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly sought to reassure the world that BeiDou-3 is primarily a civilian and commercial platform, US and European military experts beg to differ. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research associate at the University of
There are few areas where Beijing, Taipei, and Washington find themselves in agreement these days, but one of them is that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is growing more dangerous. Such a shared assessment quickly breaks down, though, when the question turns to identifying sources of rising tensions. Several Chinese experts and officials I have consulted with recently have argued that Beijing’s increasingly belligerent behavior in the Taiwan Strait is driven mostly by fear. According to this narrative, Beijing is worried that unless it puts a brake on Taiwan’s move away from the mainland, Taiwan could be “lost” forever. They
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) this week came under fire over his speech at a Rotary Club meeting in Taipei on Monday, when he said that Beijing’s military strategy toward Taiwan was “to let the first battle be the last.” If China started a cross-strait war, it would end quickly, without time for other nations to react, he said in his “Cross-Strait Relations and Taiwan Security” address, criticizing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for saying that she hoped other nations would come to Taiwan’s aid in Beijing’s first wave of attacks. A president should prevent war from happening, not talk about how