Tens of thousands of people rallied yesterday in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei and marched to the Executive Yuan, calling on government officials to apologize for forced land seizures and to stop such policies.
“It is Aug. 18 today, and it was just three years ago, on Aug. 17, that the government promised Dapu [Borough 大埔] residents that their houses would be preserved, while their farmland would be relocated,” Taiwan Rural Front (TRF) president Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮) said.
“After government officials failed to keep their promises and instead flattened private homes, they ask us to remain calm, but how can we stay calm?” Hsu asked.
The crowd responded with cheering and applause.
“Apologize and compensate!” “Return the land to the people!” they shouted.
Hsu was referring to a negotiation meeting held in 2010 which featured Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who was then premier; Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), the then minister of the interior; and Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻), following a series of protests against a plan to clear private land and homes to make way for a science park.
However, despite government promises, four houses in Miaoli County’s Dapu were torn down unexpectedly on July 18, when the county commissioner sent in demolition squads escorted by police officers while the home owners and their supporters were in Taipei protesting the demolition plan.
Asked about the surprise demolition the day after, Liu called it a “god-given opportunity.”
“A month ago, we said that we will tear down the government if they don’t apologize, and now here we are,” said Liao Pen-chuan (廖本全), an associate professor at National Taipei University’s Department of Real Estate and Built Environment.
“We’re not flattening government buildings, but what we are going to do is to destroy the system, which is supposed to protect the disadvantaged. We’re also taking down politicians who are misusing the system to exploit the disadvantaged,” Liao added.
The crowd also set up a mock memorial hall for the county commissioner, with Liu’s portrait in the center, and flowers and incense burners in front of the portrait.
A bag of cow manure was also placed by the mock memorial for people to throw at Liu’s portrait.
“Liu Cheng-hung, cross over the bridge!” the crowd shouted, referring to a traditional belief that the spirit of a newly dead person crosses a bridge into the underworld for judgment.
Since it is believed that the spirits are confused and do not know the way, he or she needs to be reminded to cross the bridge.
Several other organizations for people affected by different development projects also showed up at the rally to show their support and to tell the crowd their stories.
The four families from the demolished houses in Dapu thanked the crowd for their support and promised they will stand with other victims of development projects from now on.
After the rally, the crowd made a stop at the Ministry of the Interior, which is in charge of approving development or urban projects, where they protested outside the building.
The protest was still ongoing as of press time.