Sat, Jul 17, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Farmers protest forced land grab

EXPANSION PLANSLast month, excavators, acting under orders from the Miaoli County government, were driven onto farmland, destroying rice plants

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Liu Ching-chang, a representative of a self-help association for farmers in the Erchongpu community in Hsinchu County’s Jhudong Township, cries yesterday as he watches a ­documentary about the destruction of fields. Representatives from various self-help groups for farmers around the country held a press conference in the legislature yesterday at which they announced an overnight sit-in protest that will take place tonight in front of the Presidential Office.

PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES

Farmers and activists against land expropriation yesterday filed an application with the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) to void permission for Miaoli County Government to take over farmland in Jhunan Township (竹南), saying the county government did not complete all the legally required processes before starting the expropriations.

They also called on the public to join an overnight protest tonight.

The Miaoli County Government is taking over 28 hectares of farmland in Jhunan Township’s Dapu Borough (大埔), a farming village, to make way for the expansion of Jhunan Science Park.

Last month, excavators dispatched by the county government forced their way into rice paddies and destroyed rice plants, despite opposition from local farmers.

“Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung [劉政鴻] said the county government was acting according to the law and had completed the legal process to transfer land ownership, but we don’t think so,” Thomas Chan (詹順貴), an attorney and a member of the Taiwan Rural Front, told a press conference yesterday.

“We discovered that the county government’s land expropriation notice was posted nearly half a year before the project was approved by the MOI last year,” Chan said. “That is unlawful.”

Besides farmers from Dapu, residents who are facing a similar situation in Houlong Township (後龍), Miaoli County, Erlin Township (二林), Changhua County, Jhudong (竹東) Township and Jhubei (竹北) City in Hsinchu County and Tucheng City (土城), Taipei County, also stood beside the farmers of Dapu.

National Chengchi University’s Department of Land Economics chairman Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮) lashed out at the government for overusing its land expropriation powers.

“In many other countries, land expropriation is the last thing that the government wants to do, to take over private land, but in Taiwan it seems to be the No. 1 means of getting land,” Hsu said.

He said that in Europe and North America, as well as in Japan, it would sometimes take more than 10 years for a government to negotiate with landowners on an expropriation.

“In Taiwan, the Miaoli County Government only took months to complete the whole process,” he said.

“Japan is 10 times bigger than Taiwan in terms of land area, but Taiwan has 10 times the number of forced expropriation cases,” Hsu said, calling on the government to revise the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收法) to offer better protection to landowners.

After the press conference, farmers and activists walked to the MOI to hand over their petition.

The protesters — who numbered fewer than 10 — were stopped by the police before they were able to get into the MOI building, which led to verbal clashes with officers.

“We only wanted to go into the building to hand over the petition, why are you stopping us?” Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) shouted.

Police officers insisted they could only give their petition to an MOI representative outside the building.

The activists also called on the public to join an overnight protest against forced land expropriations on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office tonight starting at 6:30pm.

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