The Taipei City Government’s forceful demolition of two homes in Shilin District (士林) on Wednesday has drawn indignation from a number of movie directors, with some calling for the impeachment of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).
The controversy erupted when the city government ordered two buildings owned by a family named Wang (王) to be torn down to clear land for an urban development project that had been stalled for over two years.
The Wang family resisted moving from the homes in which it had lived for six generations, but their forced eviction was allowed to proceed because more than 90 percent of households in the area had already agreed to the move.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Before the Wang family was forced to vacate its two homes on Wednesday, about 300 supporters and members of rights group had gathered around the buildings, with some chained together and others standing hand-in-hand to block the move.
However, police began forcing them off the site at 7am, dragging some of the protesters onto a bus, and the demolition proceeded later in the day after the site had been cleared of demonstrators.
Critics say the forcible eviction of the Wang family was a violation of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to property.
Film director Chen Yu-hsun (陳玉勳) blasted the city government with a post on his Facebook page in which he said: “Hau Lung-bin, if I ever run into you on any occasion, I will curse you out loud!”
Another movie director, Yang Ya-che, chose to express his discontent with actions on Thursday, by relocating his meeting with movie-poster designers to Ketagalan Boulevard, where a protest was staged in support of the Wang family.
Chen said he has paid close attention to the developments of the Wang incident since Friday last week, adding that as the city government began its foreceful demolition on Wedneday, he could no longer sit and watch.
Following the demolition of the Wangs’ house on Wednesday, Chen slammed the controversial handling by the city government with a post on his Facebook page threatening to “unfriend” those who uttered remarks in favor of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) or Hau.
“Government should minister to the disadvantaged … it takes a lot of effort to build a home. Who can ever place their trust in government?” Chen wrote, adding that even “God will not forgive” the incident.
Film director Leon Dai (戴立忍), who was among the more than 300 activists who rushed to the demolition site on Wednesday to show their opposition, also voiced his opinions on Facebook.
“Rightfulness has gone backward, humanity has gone backward, civil rights have gone backward, the law has gone backward, justice has gone backward and Taiwan has gone backward,” he said.
The voices of indignation continued to pervade the filmmaking industry, with director Wang Yu-lin (王育麟) calling for Hau’s impeachment, and director Doze Niu (鈕承澤), who was on a trip to southern Taiwan, expressing regret over the incident.
Some netizens, meanwhile, have launched a campaign called “Midnight city attack,” calling for other netizens to stage protests in front of Hau’s residence at 11pm last night as a way to show their anger over the case, which they said infringed upon people’s constitutionally protected property rights and freedom of habitation.
Weighing in on the issue, former Democratic Progressive Party chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday the controversy could have been avoided if officials who handled the project communicated proactively with the parties concerned.
A mechanism should be established to help economically disadvantaged groups voice their needs, she added.
Separately yesterday, Hau called for more understanding of the city government’s duty in exercising its authority for an urban renewal project. He also blamed the controversy surrounding the case on a lack of communication with the Ministry of the Interior.
Hau reiterated the legality of the demolition and called on the public to show more sympathy for civil servants.
“I know the decision [to demolish the houses] would please no one, but the city government had discussed the case with the ministry before taking the action, and it is our duty to implement the laws as a local government,” he said at Taipei City Hall.
On Thursday, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), grilled by lawmakers on the case, said there were “elements of injustice” involved in the dispute.
Hau yesterday insisted the city government had discussed the case with the ministry during the past two years in seeking solutions to the issue, but the ministry’s Construction and Planning Agency suggested the city government should exercise its authority.
Lin Chung-chieh (林崇傑), director of Taipei City’s Urban Renewal Office, said the office had discussed the context of the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例) in hoping to find alternative solutions other than tearing down the Wang family’s homes, but the agency insisted it is the city government’s obligation to facilitate the approved urban renewal project.
The city government also issued a document to the agency in 2008 and asked whether the act violated the Constitution. The agency said it did not, Lin added.
“If the city government failed to exercise its authority, we could face lawsuits from the construction firm and landowners who agreed to the project, as they can sue the city government for malpractice,” he said.
The act stipulates that, as long as the construction firm has obtained the consent of 75 percent of the landowners on a project site, it can ask the government to demolish the rest of the buildings by force.
However, some advocates of land justice continued to condemn the city government’s move and protested in front of Hau’s residence in Shilin.
Hau said he respected the protests, but called on the protesters not to disturb his family.
In light of the controversy, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday called for a review of the Urban Renewal Act.
An overall review of the law is needed because it has been through numerous legislative revisions over the years, each time influenced by different motives and logic, Chen said prior to a legislative hearing.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer
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