Sat, Jan 27, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Residents occupy Treasure Hill

STAYING PUT A group of activists say that a Taipei City plan to renovate the neighborhood will preserve the buildings but put an end to a living community

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two elderly men living at Treasure Hill in Taipei stand outside their home yesterday. The Taipei City Government's departments of cultural affairs and urban development will turn off electricity to force them to vacate the area. The sign reads, ``False community spirit, real community death: an example of Ma Ying-jeou's extermination of communities.''

PHOTO: CNA

A group of artists living at Treasure Hill, a historical community in southern Taipei that is slated to undergo renovation, refused to vacate the neighborhood yesterday, vowing to continue occupying the area despite the Taipei City Government's threat to cut off electricity.

The Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs has recognized the area's historical significance and promised to preserve it with a two-year renovation project.

A group of artists and other residents have criticized the project, which requires the residents to move permanently or temporarily. Electricity will be cut off starting on Tuesday.

"The department has recognized this community's historical significance as a `living community.' How will the new neighborhood be a living community if authorities move out the residents and only preserve the buildings?" Chi Yue-chun (紀岳君), an activist from the Treasure Hill Commune, said yesterday.

The commune is a civic organization dedicated to preserving the community.

Disputing the city government's handling of the case, activists knocked down bricks from a broken wall to protest against the city government's "robbing" the houses from the residents.

The group also filed a lawsuit against the city government for abusing its administrative rights to force residents out.

Home to veterans of the Chinese Civil War who fled to Taiwan with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) approximately 60 years ago, Treasure Hill is packed with aging and illegal structures built by the residents.

The department cooperated with the private sector in 2003 on the Treasure Hill Artivists Cooperative project -- which was aimed at turning the area into an artist community -- and began to move 29 households to a transitional housing block near the construction area.

Some of the residents chose to accept compensation in the form of NT$720,000 to move from Treasure Hill permanently, the department said.

While members of the group -- mostly young artists who have moved to the community relatively recently -- invited the public to join them to occupy the area, some residents have instead called on the group to end the dispute with the department so that the planned renovations can begin and residents can return in a couple of years.

"I certainly hope the disputes can be ended soon. We just want to come back to the community as soon as possible. The group says they want to protect the community, but they are the one who knocked down bricks first," said Hsu Sheng-chin (徐聖情), who was born in the community and chose to move out under the city government's subsidy.

Hsu said that her mother, in her 80s, still visited old friends in the community every day, and was looking forward to returning after the renovation project was completed.

"If this dispute continues and causes the delay of the project, I don't know whether my mother will have the chance to come back to live here again," she added.

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