In the face of a growing backlash against an urban renewal project, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday acknowledged the government’s flawed handling of the case, but he pledged to help the family that opposed the project strive for their rights after their properties were torn down on Wednesday.
“The construction firm completed the legal procedures for the urban renewal project and it is the city government’s responsibility to act in accordance with the law,” Hau told an impromptu press conference at Taipei City Hall. “I know demolishing houses pleases no one and it’s a very difficult decision to make.”
Hau stressed the legality of the family’s eviction and the demolition of their properties on Wednesday, as the city government was following the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例). He called on the Ministry of the Interior to consider revising the law to find a better solution to the problem.
The city government has met with growing criticism of its handling of the project, under which a construction firm plans to turn an old residential complex of 38 households in Shilin District (士林) into a 15-story high-rise apartment complex. It evicted the family, named Wang (王), who had refused to leave and demolished their properties on Wednesday, despite ongoing protests.
Hau’s arguments yesterday failed to end the criticism, as about 100 advocates who opposed the project, mostly college students, protested in front of Taipei City Hall, with several of them successfully sneaking into the lobby to shout slogans at Hau as he attended an activity organized by Taipei EasyCard Corp.
“Hau Lung-bin, stop exercising this evil law. Apologize to the public for saying that the demolition went smoothly,” they shouted.
They were later removed by security guards.
Three members of the Wang family also joined the protest, as they vowed to continue the fight against what they called violent acts by the city government.
“Mayor Hau said today that the process is painful to him. However, he said on Wednesday that everything went smoothly. This is a 180 degree change in attitude and it is unacceptable for me,” said Wang Yao-teh (王耀德), adding that his family would consider applying for a constitutional interpretation of their rights as the owners of the properties.
Although the family had refused to give up its land, the construction firm had already received the consent of more than 75 percent of the landowners on the block and according to the act, the firm was within its rights to ask the city government to help it evict the Wangs and demolish their home.
Hau acknowledged that local landowners can become victims of urban renewal projects because of a lack of knowledge about the regulations and he said the city government would set up an urban renewal agency to make related information more accessible to the public.