The High Administrative Court in Greater Taichung yesterday rejected a request by four house owners in Dapu (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南) to halt the pending demolition of their homes by the county government. The court ruled that the demolition would not constitute “irreparable damage” as the residents claimed.
The four families said their forced relocation would not only infringe on their rights of property and residence, but also degrade their dignity as well as infringe on their rights of family, privacy and living.
However, the court said that if the families were forcibly removed and relocated, only the houses and other material things would be damaged.
The families could be compensated financially for this damage, the court said, adding that the families’ views, attachment and sentiments regarding the houses and land did not comply with the legal definition of “irreparable damage.”
In accordance with the Administrative Appeals Act (行政訴訟法), reasons for appeals to stop forcible relocation and demolition must meet the definitions of “irreparable damage” or “matters of emergency,” it said.
In response to the court ruling, Thomas Chan (詹順貴), a Taiwan Rural Front member and an attorney who represents the four families, said that although the ruling did not surprise him, he was surprised that it seemed to be based on the belief that “money is everything.”
“The court ruling is telling people that human rights have a monetary value and taxpayers’ money can make up for government mistakes,” Chan said. “I wonder if the judges would rule the same way if it were their own houses that were to be demolished.”
Separately yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said the central government should not evade its legal responsibility for the controversial demolition plans by delegating the decision to a local government.
The Ministry of the Interior is the responsible agency for state-authorized land expropriation, and the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) and the Urban Planning Act (都市計畫法) stipulate that all urban planning plans require approval from the Executive Yuan, DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) told a press conference in support of the four Dapu families’ rights to keep their houses.
“That was why the central government, including officials such as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), should shoulder the responsibility for this controversial case,” she said.
The demolition order for July 5, issued by the Miaoli County Government, was briefly suspended three years ago by Wu, who, as premier at the time, pledged to keep the houses intact. However, the central government still left the decision to the county government after a meeting convened by Wu last week.
Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) insisted the houses would be demolished to make way for a science park.
“To some extent, the central government’s indifference has encouraged Liu’s act of inciting division between residents of the village as well as the Miaoli County Council’s plan to mobilize those residents in favor of the demolition to protest in Taipei,” Dapu Farmers’ Self-Help Association spokeswoman Yeh Hsiu-tao (葉秀桃) said.
DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said Liu asked the farmers to “cooperate” with the county government because it has been under tremendous financial pressure over a NT$4.5 billion (US$151 million) loan from the central government.
“The county government is trying to legitimize its real-estate speculation by demolishing people’s houses for government gains,” she said.
Additional reporting by Loa Iok-sin