On June 9, 2010, the Miaoli County Government sent excavators to Jhunan Township’s (竹南) Dapu Village (大埔) and, without notifying the residents, destroyed the rice paddies of farmers who refused to surrender their land to make way for the planned expansion of the Jhunan Science Park.
In a bid to resolve the controversy that ensued after the death of 72-year-old Chu Feng-min (朱馮敏), who allegedly committed suicide to protest the land seizures, then-premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) met with Dapu representatives two months later and pledged to protect the farmers’ properties.
Fast-forward to this month and the plight facing the Dapu farmers remains unchanged, despite current vice president Wu’s promise.
On June 11, Peng Hsiu-chun (彭秀春), Chu Shu (朱樹), Huang Fu-chi (黃福記) and Ko Cheng-fu (柯成福) — whose homes are on land set to be turned into a science park — each received an official notice from the county government asking them to “voluntarily relocate by July 5,” or a demolition squad would flatten their houses.
Is this how Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government officials treat promises, by putting up a display of sincerity while making pledges which they toss away like toilet paper after any resulting controversy appears to have fallen off the public’s radar?
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and Wu may disagree with such a description, contending that the government has handed out compensation to the Dapu residents and that the remaining four houses do not meet “certain principles” that would exempt them from demolition. However, whether they like it or not, both the premier and the vice president have, through their insensitive and aloof rhetoric and conduct, once again undermined the government’s credibility and repulsed the public with their callousness and lack of empathy.
In times like these, it is ironic to consider President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) favorite expression: “Government officials ought to feel the pain of the people.”
In fact, many also recall that the president often pledges that his government will listen attentively to what the public is saying and reflect on how it might actually change people’s lives for the better.
“My house is only 6 ping [19.8m2] now because about half of it was torn down for a road to be widened and, if the latest demolition happens, we would have only 0.5 ping left... Why is it so hard to keep something that’s ours?” Chang Sen-wen (張森文), a resident of one of the four houses facing demolition, said in tears yesterday.
Jiang’s latest stance appears to favor the Miaoli County Government’s plan to tear down the houses tomorrow, so it would seem that he has not listened to the Dapu farmers’ cries, or worse, cannot empathize with them.
While some may be quick to dismiss the current Dapu controversy as a petty issue involving only a handful of houses, the insensitive way in which the government has approached the matter should not be overlooked. If this is the way officials demonstrate their way of governance, the Dapu case may not be the last in which people’s property is flattened by government excavators overnight.
This begs the question: When will the Ma administration learn to start behaving with a little more empathy and humanity?