Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Land rights groups protest against Lai

REFUGEES:The protesters said the premier’s record as Tainan mayor indicates he will emphasize development, meaning many will lose their homes to expropriations

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Land rights advocates clash with police during a demonstration outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

Former Tainan mayor William Lai’s (賴清德) ascension to the premiership was yesterday greeted with defiance by land rights advocates, with dozens of members from a range of self-help associations gathering outside the Executive Yuan to protest what they termed a “butcher’s Cabinet.”

Protesters yelled slogans and pushed against a line of police during Lai’s inauguration ceremony, then affixed a plaque to the Executive Yuan’s gates that said Lai’s main accomplishment was forced evictions.

“Lai pushed for many land consolidation cases as Tainan mayor, and his Cabinet is likely to emphasize development at the expense of public opinion,” said Chen Chih-hsiao (陳致曉), spokesman for a self-help association of Tainan residents affected by land expropriation for a planned underground railroad line.

“Lai will push the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, which will create lots of expropriation refugees. We are here to meet this ‘forced eviction Cabinet’ head-on,” he added.

He cited the appointment of Cabinet Secretary-General Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) as minister of the National Development Council as a cause for concern.

One of only two new appointments in Lai’s Cabinet, Chen Mei-ling is to be charged with overseeing implementation of the infrastructure program, Chen Chih-hsiao said, adding that she was deeply involved in pushing for Tainan’s underground railroad line during her time as the city’s secretary-general under Lai.

The prospects of Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong’s (葉俊榮) promises to hold special hearings before approving controversial land expropriation now look dim, he added.

While the Tainan City Government is in the process of holding local hearings on the planned railway line, land rights advocates have contended that the meetings’ procedures are questionable and do not require government officials to provide evidence when responding to questions or engage in open debate.

“We absolutely do not think there is much of a chance for a turnabout in our case, because now the whole government is going to be under Lai’s direction,” Chen Chih-hsiao said. “Even though Yeh is going to look bad, it is now extremely unlikely that any ministry-level hearings will be held.”

Hsieh Yi-hung (謝毅弘), a student and member of a self-help association for New Taipei City’s Daguan community (大觀), said the government’s forced eviction efforts are likely to begin with the community, which is linked to a former military dependents’ village.

“The Veterans Affairs Council plans to begin a new round of demolitions on Monday, which will be the first shot for future forced evictions,” Hsieh said.

The evictions will clear out the last remaining homes belonging to residents who had agreed to government demolition plans, setting the stage for future forced evictions, members of the Daguan association said.

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