Fri, Jul 05, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Dapu protesters, police clash, as Wu calls a halt

MISCOMMUNICATION?Miaoli’s county commissioner said the deadline set for today was not for demolition of the houses, but for the four households to relocate

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Residents of Dapu in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township hold a press conference in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday in an 11th-hour effort to save their houses from being demolished by the county government. Chang Sen-wen, right, who had been hospitalized earlier yesterday morning, was unconscious.

Photo: J. Michael Cole, Taipei Times

Frustrated at a lack of response from Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) over the impending demolition of the homes of four families in Dapu (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南), dozens of demonstrators yesterday climbed over the gates of the Executive Yuan in Taipei and clashed with police.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office said later yesterday that Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) had asked the Miaoli County Government to suspend the planned demolition.

“If the premier is not coming out to see us, we are going in to see him,” Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Frida Tsai (蔡培慧) told the crowd, many of whom had been protesting outside the Executive Yuan for two days, as Jiang presided over a Cabinet meeting inside.

As Tsai led the crowd toward the front gate of the Executive Yuan while chanting “Keep your word, save the houses,” dozens of younger protesters quickly pulled out blankets, put them over the fence and climbed over into the Executive Yuan.

Several police officers rushed over to prevent the protesters from going into the Executive Yuan building, while demonstrators on the other side of the fence clashed with officers guarding the front gate.

Emotions were already running high prior to the clashes, especially after Chang Sen-wen (張森文), one of the Dapu residents whose house was scheduled for demolition by the Miaoli County Government any time after today, arrived in a wheelchair.

Chang lost consciousness early yesterday morning when he was removed by force by the police after two days of camp-in protest in front of the Executive Yuan. He fell unconscious and was still unconscious when he appeared at the demonstration at about 10:30am.

“I insisted on bringing him here, because this may be the last thing he can do for our home before it’s torn down,” Peng Hsiu-chun (彭秀春), Chang’s wife, said in tears. “Please save our home, please save my husband.”

Equally emotional was Chu Ping-kun (朱炳坤), another Dapu resident whose house is also to be demolished.

“My mother committed suicide two years ago because she was so worried about her home and land being taken over by the government. Despite promises by government officials, nothing seems to have changed,” Chu said.

“Seeing what’s happening now to Chang is like seeing what happened to my mother: My mother killed herself, but Chang could be forced into death by the government,” Chu said.

In tears and hardly able to talk, farmer Hung Hsiang (洪箱), from the neighboring township of Houlong (後龍), pleaded for help from the premier.

“I feel sad because I can’t do anything to help when a human life is disappearing in front of me,” Hung said. “A decision that you [the premier] make could save or kill a person. He [Chang] may survive today, but he would eventually die when his house is torn down. Why won’t you help save a life?”

Chang’s condition improved later yesterday afternoon and he returned home as the families and their supporters prepared for a rally in Dapu today.

Twenty-four houses were originally to be flattened to make way for a science park.

However, following fierce protests, the government agreed to allow residents to keep their homes following a negotiation presided over by Wu in 2010 when he was the premier.

However, the decision was overturned by the Ministry of the Interior and, while an administrative lawsuit is ongoing, four of the families received a new demolition order from the county government last month, asking them to tear down their own homes by today.

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