Accompanied by supporters from across the country, the Wang (王) family from Taipei’s Shihlin District (士林) yesterday protested the city government’s deadline of Sunday for the family to raze its home to make way for a urban renewal project, calling the city government action illegal and unconstitutional.
“Over the past few years, we’ve had countless negotiations with the Taipei City Government, but it has not once been able to tell us what public interest is involved in the urban renewal case that concerns our family,” Wang Yao-teh (王耀德) told a news conference.
“Apparently, the government is working to defend the interests of the construction firm, not us ordinary citizens — unless the city government can tell us what the public interest of the project is, our struggle will continue,” he added.
The Wang family lives in a -decades-old two-story building that it built on a plot of land it owns in a block along Wenlin Road (文林路) in Shilin, next to Wenlin Bridge.
The block where the Wang Family House was located was chosen by Le Young, a construction company, to build a 15-story high-rise apartment building as an urban renewal project.
Although the family has refused to give up its land, the construction firm has already received the consent of more than 75 percent of the landowners on the block, and according to the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例), the firm can now ask the city government to help it evict the Wangs and demolish their home.
The city government set Thursday last week as the deadline for the family to demolish the buildings, adding that failure to do so would force the city government to take action itself.
“Article 1 of the Urban Renewal Act states that urban renewal projects are meant to promote the planned redevelopment of land and revitalize urban areas for the purpose of enhancing the public interest,” said Chen Hung-ying (陳虹穎), a member of the Taiwan Alliance for the Victims of Urban Renewal.
“However, in this case, we do not see how allowing a construction firm to tear down houses already in existence and build a high-rise apartment building constitutes a public good,” Chen added.
“The government should not be hired thugs for construction firms, the law needs to be revised,” Chen added. “What is happening to the Wangs is not an isolated case. If we allow such a terrible law to exist without revision, any one of us could be its next victims.”
Activists also questioned the legality of the city government’s decision, because the Fire Services Act (消防法) stipulates that buildings over five stories tall can only be built on a street that is at least 4m in width to provide access to fire fighters, but the street in front of the planned construction site is less than 4m in width.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency (CPA) has informed the Taipei City Government via an official letter that, according inspections of the area conducted by the agency, there could be genuine fire safety concerns regarding the -construction site because of the narrowness of the of streets surrounding it.
“The city government should not ignore the opinions of a central government agency,” she said, showing a copy of the letter.
However, a CPA official, who attended the press conference, said that the final say on the case belongs to the local government.