The Executive Yuan yesterday designated an agricultural zone within a planned science park expansion in Miaoli in a bid to resolve the Dapu farmland controversy caused by the expropriation of 24 families’ land. The move failed to impress the farmers, who said they just want their own land back.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said the 24 households would be given plots of the same size as their seized land within a 5 hectare reserved zone after the Miaoli County Government completes the seizure process. The government would also help the farmers diversify into organic farming, he said.
“There will be an agricultural zone next to a science park at Jhunan [Township (竹南)],” Wu told a press conference attended by Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) and Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄).
“We reached the conclusion in response to local farmers’ desire to retain land for farming,” Wu said, adding that he hoped the decision would meet the expectations of all concerned.
Liu apologized to the public for the first time at the press conference, saying he had “failed to supervise my subordinates and allowed them to drive excavators in there.”
He did not respond, however, when asked if he should bear political responsibility for the controversy.
“We know that the 24 farming families have suffered great losses. I really didn’t know there were rice paddies there,” Liu said.
Wu and Liu’s comments failed to move farmers’ representatives.
“I will not comment on the proposal because we haven’t seen anything concrete yet, and Liu has lied to us too many times,” Dapu Self-Help Association spokeswoman Yeh Hsiu-tao (葉秀桃) said. “We demand [the county government] gives back our lands, gives back our soil, that they restore everything that was on the land before they destroyed it.”
It took generations of Dapu residents and more than 200 years to turn the once-arid soil into good arable land, Yeh said, adding: “We don’t want to move to another place and start over again.”
What has happened to Dapu was not an isolated case, Yeh said, which is why the farmers were demanding the revision of laws on land expropriation so that no other farmers have to suffer what they are going through now.
Wu’s announcement came after a public outcry over the Miaoli County Government’s expropriation of a total of 28 hectares in Jhunan’s Dapu Borough (大埔). The county sent in excavators to dig up rice paddies despite some farmers’ opposition. Liu said at the time that the county government was acting according to the law and had completed the legal process to transfer land ownership.
Photographs and video clips of the demolitions spread quickly on the Internet and in the media, shining a spotlight on years of campaigning by farmers against land expropriation.
Farmers from Dapu, along with those in Wanbao Borough (灣寶) in Miaoli’s Houlong Township (後龍), Erchongpu (二重埔) in Hsinchu County’s Jhudong Township (竹東), Siangsihliao (相思寮) in Changhua County’s Erlin Township (二林) and Taipei County’s Tucheng (土城) rallied last Saturday on Ketagalan Boulevard to protest land seizures.
Liu Ching-chang (劉慶昌), who led Saturday’s protest, said the government’s offer was unacceptable, and threatened to hold another demonstration.
Wu said he could not promise not to include specific agricultural areas in future development projects, but the government would not take changing the status of these areas for granted when drawing up policy.
Asked what role, if any, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) played in the negotiations between farmers and Liu, Wu said: “The president cares about farmers or he would not have pushed through the Rural Revitalization Act (農村再生條例).”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LOA IOK-SIN AND CNA
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