The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday announced that it will not appeal a court ruling in favor of the victims of the forced demolitions of four houses in Miaoli County’s Dapu Borough (大埔) last year, putting an end to a four-year tug-of-war between the government and the residents who vowed to uphold housing justice, even at the cost of their lives.
“To assuage social divisions, alleviate the burden on the judicial system and allow concerned parties to return to a life of peace and tranquility, the ministry has decided not to appeal the case as a gesture of goodwill,” Deputy Minister of the Interior Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇) told a press conference in Taipei yesterday afternoon.
Hsiao also issued an apology over the disturbances caused by the flattening of the four houses due to “procedural flaws,” and pledged aggressive, concerted efforts with the Miaoli County Government to negotiate follow-up discussions with the four house owners.
The ministry’s decision came about three weeks after the Taichung High Administrative Court ruled on Jan. 3 that the county government’s partial or complete demolition of homes belonging to the families Chang (張), Chu (朱), Ko (柯) and Huang (黃) to make way for a science park were unlawful.
The court reached the verdict on the grounds that the county government did not follow due process in its price negotiations with the four house owners and that the ministry failed to properly assess whether the case was necessary or beneficial to the public, Hsiao said.
“However, since the plan to requisition [the four houses] was approved before a major revision of the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) on Jan. 4, 2012, it is natural that the procedures for carrying out the plan are considered rather loose if judged according to current regulations,” Hsiao said.
Hsiao expressed confidence that the government’s handling of land seizure cases has become more in line with public expectations after the revision, which is aimed at protecting disadvantaged people.
As to the four families’ demands that their houses be rebuilt at the same sites and that their land be returned, Hsiao said the court ruling stated that since their land had either been designated as public roads or allocated to other landowners in lieu of financial compensation, the government was unable to meet their requests from “an objective point of view.”
Hsiao added that the ministry was inclined to compensate the families either via monetary means or by reconstructing their houses at another site.
In response, the four families reiterated their insistence that their properties be rebuilt at the original locations, saying that their long-term fight for housing justice would be pointless if they were to accept the ministry’s proposals.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said the Dapu incident not only caused irreparable harm to the four house owners, but also resulted in the public losing faith in the government.
“Nevertheless, the ministry’s decision to put an end to [the controversy surrounding] ‘the series of mistakes’ could be the start of restored public trust in the government,” Su said.
Additional reporting by Peng Chien-li and Chen Ching-min