President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday received a petition letter from a resident of a Taipei community facing demolition as part of an urban renewal plan as Ma visited Ma Village (馬家庄) in Miaoli County’s Tongsiao Township (通宵) to worship ancestors and distribute red envelopes.
On the second day of the Lunar New Year holidays, Ma made his 15th annual visit to Ma Village, which has no actual connection with the Hong Kong-born president’s relatives or ancestors.
The president made a brief speech after he participated in a traditional ancestor-worshiping ceremony, before handing out auspicious red envelopes containing NT$1 each to people waiting in line to wish them a prosperous year ahead.
In the line was a female resident of the Huaguang Community (華光社區) in Taipei, who fell to her knees when it was her turn to receive an envelope from Ma.
Her abrupt move was followed by about four people behind her in line, who were also believed to be community residents.
Quickly carried away by presidential security guards, they shouted slogans urging Ma to take responsibility for their community’s planned demolition, causing a commotion.
Ma received the petition from the woman after order was restored.
Located near the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District (中正), Huaguang Community houses nearly 60 households, mostly made up of veterans who fled the Chinese Civil War with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime in 1949 and their descendants.
While the land belongs to the Ministry of Justice, the community existed for decades until the early 2000s, when the city government drew up an urban renewal project and demanded the eviction of the economically disadvantaged families living in the community.
During his two terms as Taipei mayor, Ma repeatedly pledged to help the community’s residents resettle, as did several central government officials.
However, those reassurances failed to win the residents a resettlement plan. Instead the residents have faced a wave of lawsuits over illegal occupation filed by the ministry, which have demanded that each household pay millions in compensation.
Demolition is set for Feb. 24.
The Presidential Office said Ma has paid close attention to the developments regarding the community and that he telephoned the heads of concerned government agencies after his Ma Village visit to ask for more information.