Several farmers, accompanied by the Taiwan Rural Front and other farmers’ rights advocates, protested in front of the legislature against what they claim are backroom deals and land injustice as consultations among political parties on the amendment of the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) were being held yesterday morning.
Holding cardboard signs saying “Policy wiping out farmers” and “Against being forced to move,” the protesters shouted: “Land justice, no compromise” toward the legislative building.
The protesters said the proposed amendment was only a political manipulation for the upcoming elections, as the draft amendment suggested by civic groups was completely neglected and normal parliamentary procedures were skipped before the consultation among political parties was held.
They said the legislators were “making fake amendments and actually cheating the people for election votes.”
“Taiwan is a democratic society. How can they arbitrarily amend laws like this, stealing land from the people? What the hell are they doing?” said an 84-year-old farmer from Hsinchu County’s Jhubei City (竹北), surnamed Hsieh (謝).
The Taiwan Rural Front insisted on six demands, which are: the protection of high-quality farmland; the establishment of evaluation standards on necessity and public benefit; public participation in the decisionmaking process; fair compensation; the establishment of clear regulations for rearranging the residents’ housing; and rectification of the current zone expropriation.
New Taipei City’s (新北市) Bali District (八里) Taipei Harbor Anti Land Expropriation Self-Help Association chairperson Chang Wan-yi (張萬益) said the government was using zone expropriation to take 135 hectares of land for the Taipei Harbor area, but would not allow the farmers to keep their farmland of about 1 hectare.
“This is the second time we are facing land expropriation and we have no choice but to protest on the streets because we’ve tried submitting petitions to several government agencies, but have been ignored,” Chang said. “They have become a government with no feelings.”
“We make a living only by farming and fishing ... but now Bali District is being strangled and on the verge of death. Where can we go? Do they want us to move into the sea?” he said.
“The government is taking my land and said it’s for creating a greenbelt in the area, but what’s the difference of growing new trees and keeping my pomelo trees?” a 76-year-old pomelo farmer surnamed Chang (張) said. “I’ve saved for decades to pass this small piece of farmland to my son, but now they are taking it away from us.”
Liao Pen-chuan (廖本全), an associate professor in National Taipei University’s department of real estate and built environment, said the Land Expropriation Act should be a law that protects people’s rights rather than using institutional violence to violate their rights.
Stacks of fake cash were scattered over the ground as representatives used farming hoes to smash a black paper box made in the shape of an election ballot box with the words “black-box operation” and “backroom deals” written on it, expressing their disgust over under-the-table deals.
The protesters said more than 1,000 young advocates from student clubs and farmers from across the country would gather on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei last night to express demands for land justice through sit-ins and speeches.