Sat, Dec 24, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Activists slam ‘cleaning’ up of homeless

‘DRUNKS AND GAMBLERS’:Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying said Wanhua residents would appreciate it if the city goverrnment would ‘point the water hose at the homeless’

By Loa Iok-sin and Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff Reporters

The Taipei City Government is evicting homeless people from a Taipei park by spraying water, human rights advocacy groups said yesterday.

“Although they did not spray water directly onto the homeless, they sprayed water very late at night or in the early hours — such as at 11pm or 6am — to wet the ground, forcing the homeless to wait until the ground dries before they can sleep and therefore effectively preventing them from staying overnight in the park,” Homeless of Taiwan spokeswoman Kuo Ying-ching (郭盈靖) said.

She said a video clip shot by her group in the park in front of Longshan Temple (龍山寺) in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) had captured such a scene.

Kuo went on to criticize President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) over his promise that the government would not force the homeless to leave public places.

“Ma said the government does not evict the homeless, but in reality, it’s happening,” Kuo said.

While the Taipei City Government’s Park and Street Lights Office (PSLO) officially calls such operations “cleaning,” the transcript of a question-and-answer session between city councilors and Park and Street Lights Office Director Chen Chia-chin (陳嘉欽) in the city council gazette shows that evicting the homeless is the main objective.

According to the record of the meeting on Oct. 27, Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying (應曉薇) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lauded the PSLO for effectively preventing the homeless from staying in the park by spraying water.

“No matter how we try to persuade them to leave, the homeless stay there — warnings or tickets are no use, but the PSLO have an answer, through a very simple way, which is spraying water in the park, right?” Ying asked Chen.

Chen said the “cleaning” took place between 7am and 10am in the morning and between 2pm and 4pm in the afternoon.

Ying said it was not enough and asked the office to start the first shift at 6am and the late shift at 11pm.

“The point is that these people [the homeless] are extremely malicious, only very few of them are listed as homeless by the Department of Social Affairs and most of them are lazy people who don’t want to work; they gather there and make the place dirty,” Ying said.

Independent City Councilor Lin Ruei-tou (林瑞圖) supported Ying’s view, adding that it is because of the homeless that real estate values in the areas are so low.

He urged Chen to agree to Ying’s request and adjust the spraying hours, “so that we can restrict the space for the homeless,” the transcript says.

Ying went on to say that all Wanhua residents would appreciate it if the PSLO would “point the water hose at the homeless,” and that everyone would call the director “Chen the Hero” if he could do the “sacred job” of “solving the homeless problem.”

Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳) disagreed with the city councilors.

“The councilors look at the issue from a very superficial point of view,” Tsai said in a telephone interview with the Taipei Times.

“Most of the homeless are victims of the economic downturn and driving them away is not the answer,” Tsai said.

“The government should be trying to help them with empowerment programs, such as shelters or job training schemes,” added Tsai, expressing concern that such an unfriendly attitude by the city government could possibly lead to violent assaults on the homeless.

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