The day Typhoon Soulik pummeled Taiwan, the Taichung High Administrative Court rejected the appeal by four households in Dapu Borough (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南鎮) to put a halt to the demolition of their homes.
For these households — and in particular for Chang Sen-wen (張森文), who had a nervous breakdown as a result of the demolition threat and has been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward — the force of this decision was no less devastating than Soulik itself.
Quite simply, the court rejected their appeal because money trumps everything.
The court’s decision says to Taiwanese that anything can be bought off by monetary compensation, and that the rich and powerful who are part of this conspiracy can do anything they want this way, including by-passing Taiwan’s constitutional basic human rights.
News reports reveal the main reason for the rejection of the appeal to halt demolition — in addition to it not being a “matter of emergency” — is that there was no “irreparable damage” to the families.
Destruction of homes goes hand in hand with monetary compensation, and at an early stage the Miaoli County Government set aside the compensation to be paid to these four households.
Despite the fact that the land expropriation first approved by the Ministry of Justice was halted because it was found to be illegal, monetary compensation can still be used to compensate losses for the households if their homes are demolished.
The emotional and sentimental bonds that tie these four families to their homes do not fall under the protection of the law, and they are not reason enough to halt demolition.
However, the judges have forgotten that the money used to pay the compensation is taxpayers’ money and not the private funds of Minister of Justice Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻), or the salaries of the judges themselves.
Even if the judges will not think twice about spending the government’s money, they should at least consider the fact that their position requires that they correct illegal administrative decisions and protect the rights of the public.
No court would allow that reconstruction is part of the restoration that a person bringing a lawsuit against an illegal administration decision can request.
Surely this alone would make it imperative that demolition be halted during court proceedings to guarantee the rights of the complainant.
All in all, it all comes down to money. The values manifested by the court’s decision tell us that as long as you have power and money, any member of the public is just a sitting duck.
This makes you wonder exactly which of the freedoms of expression and personal and other freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are not up for sale.
The fundamental reason for government is to serve and protect the public’s basic rights. If it is incapable of providing this protection and can only offer monetary compensation after the violation and deprivation of our basic rights is carried out, why is there any need for either nation or Constitution?
It is astonishing that the judiciary, whose duty it is to counterbalance administrative arbitrariness and maintain social justice and fairness, can make such a preposterous and outdated decision in this day and age.
We can only hope such decisions and views are of a disappearing conservative minority.
If not, the judiciary has just announced its demise and the Republic of China will follow in its footsteps.
Chan Shun-kuei is a lawyer.
Translated by Perry Svensson