After having welcomed in the new year with a night of firecrackers and fireworks, everyone has had to return to the hardships and cruelties of their daily lives.
Some have had to face harsher realities than others, because of the government’s recent high-handed and imperious land seizures: Many people have, in effect, become refugees in their own country.
On Thursday, a group of people who were forcefully removed from their homes summoned the courage to gather outside the Ministry of the Interior in Taipei to protest against the government’s actions.
During the demonstration, they accused the unreasonable and domineering government of violating the Constitution and committing other human rights violations by depriving the protesters of their homes, and leaving them in a state of constant anxiety and concern.
The demonstrators were residents of Leshan Village (樂善村) in Guishan Township (龜山鄉), Taoyuan County. Their calm and peaceful lives were disrupted when the government proposed its plan to build the A7 station of the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport MRT.
The initiative drained the color from their lives, leaving them in an empty black-and-white void because of the government’s intentions to sweep them brusquely aside and expropriate their land.
Prior to the expropriation proceedings, the government is to hold a “pre-auction,” to auction the land to developers. It is appalling to think that the government will forcefully sell off the land while those who own it are sitting in their homes on that same land.
A very small portion of this land has been set aside for the development of affordable housing, but a much larger area has been designated for industry and construction.
The government is clearly driving up land prices in order to bring in capital and improve its fiscal situation.
Villagers approached the Control Yuan for help and information about the government’s actions. In an investigative report conducted by the Control Yuan, the reason given by the interior ministry for the pre-auction was that without one, the deadline for completion of the MRT station’s construction would likely not be met.
The ministry also said that such a procedure would not harm the rights or interests of those who own the land in the area.
This is nothing but a barefaced lie and the Control Yuan directed harsh criticism at the Cabinet, saying that in the absence of any legislation to support such a move, the unscrupulous pre-auctioning of land that is still the property of private citizens shows a lack of respect for private property rights and also violates fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
In its criticism, the Control Yuan also said that this would lead to public fear and unease, resulting in public complaints, and this should not be the kind of policy making up the foundations of a government.
In his new year’s address, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) asked that Taiwanese show tolerance and forgiveness toward each other.
The irony is that what is happening is the stronger parties are bullying the weaker ones, chasing them from their own land, and the main culprit behind this exploitation of the public is the government –– the very one that is led by Ma.
Hsu Shih-jung is a professor in the Department of Land Economics at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Perry Svensson