Residents of Dapu Village (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南) continued their sit-in protest outside the Executive Yuan for a second day yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for four families’s homes to be demolished.
“I have brought tofu desserts and sweet green bean soup that I made myself for Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to show my sincerity,” Peng Hsiu-chun (彭秀春), a member of one of the four families that received a demolition order from the Miaoli County Government last month, told Executive Yuan Ethics Office official Chang Shih-jen (張世仁) as she held a bowl of dessert.
“I would like to invite the premier to my place on Friday to see for himself whether my house is blocking the traffic [as the county claims],” she said.
“He is welcome to take a look. He would see that while my home may be only 6 ping [19.8m2] in size, it is enough for our family. He would also see that while my kitchen is tiny, I can still make good food in there,” she said.
Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮), a professor of land economics at National Chengchi University and president of Taiwan Rural Front, asked Jiang to help the residents.
“The central government has the final say on urban planning, so the central government should intervene when the Miaoli County Government makes nonsensical decisions,” Hsu said.
“Do not allow a local government to take over functions of the central government,” he said.
Despite a promise made by Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) in 2010 when he was premier that all 24 households in Dapu affected by a science park project would be allowed to keep their houses, the Ministry of the Interior has decided to tear down the houses of Peng, Chu Shu (朱樹), Huang Fu-chi (黃福記) and Ko Cheng-fu (柯成福).
Although the four households filed an administrative lawsuit, the county last month renewed its demolition order, asking them to flatten their houses by tomorrow or the county would do it.
Chang Sen-wen (張森文), Peng’s husband, asked the government to have mercy on them.
“My house is only 6 ping now because about half of it was torn down in order to widen the road. If the latest demolition order is carried out, we would have only 0.5 ping left — how are we supposed to live in it with our three children? Why is it so hard to keep something that’s ours?” a teary-eyed Chang sen-wen said.
“We are law-abiding citizens. Can the government have mercy on us? Did I do anything wrong? Have I committed any crime? Is the government sentencing us to death?” he said.
Chang Shih-jen promised to take the dessert and the message to Jiang.
However, Jiang apparently favors the county government’s plan to tear down the houses.
In response to media inquiries, Jiang said the Executive Yuan has told the county government to go ahead with the decision made at a meeting of the Ministry of the Interior’s City Planning Commission.
Jiang was referring to the decision made on July 24 last year that overturned Wu’s pledge that the houses could remain.
Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) on Tuesday said that Wu had agreed to preserve the houses on the principle that the conservation would not compromise the flow of traffic, public safety, equality or rationality in urban planning.
The county government decided to demolish the houses after its urban planning experts and those at the ministry said that preserving the houses would not meet Wu’s conditions, Cheng said.
The activists have reacted angrily to Executive Yuan’s justifications, with Hsu, who was at the 2010 meeting where Wu made the promise, calling them “a pack of lies.”
Jiang, who also participated in the 2010 meeting as the minister of the interior, said yesterday that the principles “were not written out in the conclusion” of the meeting, but “that was what Vice President Wu meant.”
“We have double-checked with him on this,” Jiang said.
The Executive Yuan hopes the county government can handle the controversy in line with the decision made at the City Planning Commission last year, Jiang said.
“This issue has been dragging on for far too long,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), who visited the protesters on Tuesday evening, yesterday described the government’s insistence that the homes be demolished as “burning the bridges after crossing the river,” saying that it had forced the farmers to take to the streets to protect their rights.
“Here is my warning to the Ma administration: What you are going to demolish is not just the homes these farmers have counted on to live, but also people’s trust in the government,” Su said.
Additional reporting by Chris Wang