Han caught in illegal structure controversy

COVER-UP?:Residents reported seeing construction equipment tearing down a mansion owned by Han’s wife after media reported it was illegally built on farmland

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Fri, Jul 12, 2019 - Page 1

The Yunlin County Government yesterday declared that buildings owned by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) wife, Lee Chia-fen (李佳芬), are illegal structures, as they were built on farmland.

The decision was made after county officials inspected a property in Gukeng Township (古坑), Yunlin County Agricultural Department Director-General Chang Hung-yu (張鴻猷) said.

Residents said that the 502.9 ping (1,662m2) property registered under Lee’s name contains a three-story house and other structures.

Han and his wife have broken laws governing the use of agricultural land and restrictions on construction under the Agricultural Development Act (農業發展條例), Yunlin County Councilor Chiang Wen-teng (江文登) said.

Under the act, to be designated as agricultural land, 90 percent must be used for cultivating crops or farm products, while only 10 percent may contain housing, Chiang said.

The local government has shielded Han by failing to take action, as the illegal structures have existed for many years, Chiang added.

After news about the structures emerged, workers with heavy machinery were seen at the site on Saturday last week demolishing the outer structures of the main complex, which included a two-story annex with a garage and an indoor basketball court.

The workers told reporters that they were instructed by the property owner to demolish the structure within one day.

Chiang and other critics have said that the county government has been shielding Han and Lee, as Yunlin County Commissioner Chang Li-shan (張麗善) is reportedly a good friend of Han.

Before dispatching a team to inspect the site yesterday, Chang Hung-yu had previously said that his office had not received any complaints about it.

“News about the property’s illegal buildings were well reported — how can county officials say that no one had filed a complaint?” Chiang said. “If the mansion was legal, why did they demolish it in haste?”

“Han and Lee used their political connections and special privileges to build a luxury mansion. It is obvious that Han is not a farmer and is not of the ‘common folk’ as he claims to be,” Democratic Progressive Party Yunlin chapter director Lin Lien-kuei (林廉貴) said.

Responding to the allegations, Han said: “Everything is legal here. We can stand up to any test and we have no special privileges.”

“The building was already there when we purchased the property,” Lee said in a statement. “We will cooperate with the inspection and will tear down structures that are deemed to be illegal.”

“The structure was built and completed in 1999, and I purchased the property from the original owner in 2002,” she added.

However, the original developer told reporters that the complex is different than the original building.

“It was definitely built up further and expanded to become much larger and higher than the original structure,” the developer said.

About last week’s demolition, Lee said: “We built some additions for children to have a sports playground. Once we learned that it might be seen as illegal, we hired workers to tear them down.”