They danced, they sang, they prepared a feast for their guests. It could have been any other weiya (尾牙, year-end party held before the Lunar New Year), but this party was a demonstration and the hosts were worried about their future despite the festival atmosphere.
After a long struggle with the Taipei County Government to spare their homes from demolition last year, residents of the Sanying Aboriginal Community (三鶯部落) organized the protest weiya to show appreciation to their supporters and solidarity among themselves.
“I’m very excited to see so many friends here today. I know all of you have work today, but you still take the time to come out and support us when you hear about the troubles we’re in,” Sanying’s Community chief Kacaw told more than 100 supporters and residents before introducing members of the Sanying Self-Help Association.
“I want you to know that your help and support mean a lot to us, and we want to say thank you,” Kacaw said as the self-help group’s members bowed to the audience.
The Sanying Community is located in Yingge Township (鶯歌), Taipei County on the bank of the Dahan River (大漢溪).
Most of the residents are Amis Aborigines who came to Taipei to work as laborers and built their own simple houses there because they could not afford the city’s real estate prices.
However, as their houses were illegal and located in what the Water Conservation Act (水利法) has classified as a flood zone, the county has torn down their houses several times in the past decades. Although they have rebuilt their homes each time, they still have to live with the fear that their homes could be razed again.
The situation seemed to have taken a turn for the better when Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) made a surprise visit to the community recently, promising that the county government would not touch their homes until a suitable location had been found for their relocation.
The promise gave the residents some relief, but they said they could not fully believe it until they saw what developed.
“I think we still have a long way to go, but we’re not yet sure what we’ll do next — we’ll probably get our electricity restored first,” Sangying spokeswoman Hung Feng-chin (洪鳳琴) told the Taipei Times.
The electricity was cut during one of the demolitions last year.
In front of Hung were tables with items donated by supporters for fundraising, including a Cape No. 7 (海角七號) movie poster autographed by director Wei Te-sheng (魏德勝), a calendar bearing the autograph of director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) and a pack of rice autographed by farmers’ rights activist Yang Ru-men (楊儒門).
Residents of the Sijhou Aboriginal Community (溪洲部落) — a community in Sindian City (新店), Taipei County, that faces the same fate as Sanying — performed several songs they wrote themselves.
While the county government has left it alone for a year since the last time it threatened to flatten the community in 2007, Sijhou residents were also uncertain about their future.
“The county government said it would find another piece of land for us, but we want to stay where we are,” Sijhou Self-Help Association chairwoman Osay Saoma said. “They haven’t bothered us for sometime already, but we don’t know when they’ll come again.”