Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday canceled his trip to the Boao Forum in China amid ongoing protests against an urban renewal project in the city’s Shilin District (士林).
Instead, he is expected to meet with experts and academics in Taipei to discuss issues, problems in the handling of the project and to find better solutions in handling other urban renewal projects in the future.
According to Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強), Hau decided to cancel his trip yesterday morning to focus on the pressing issues surrounding the project following the demolition of two houses owned by a family that refused to take part in the project.
Hau was scheduled to leave for China’s Hainan Province yesterday evening with a delegation led by vice president-elect Wu Den-yih (吳敦義). Hau was invited by the forum’s organizers to speak about his experiences in turning Taipei into a city that is comfortable to live in through municipal projects including MRT networks, free wireless service and recycling.
The demolition of the houses owned by a family surnamed Wang (王) sparked waves of protest, with land justice activists and urban renewal academics questioning the legality of the demolition. Amid ongoing protests, three advisers to Taipei City’s Human Rights Commission said they would quit their posts in protest against the city’s violation of human rights in the demolition of civilians’ houses.
Chang said yesterday the city government would discuss its handling of the case with the three advisers and seek more understanding from them.
As the city plans to discuss the legal aspects of its handling of urban renewal projects, it is suspending the scheduled demolitions of homes that belong to landowners who oppose projects on Taipei’s Wuxing Street and near the MRT’s Yongchun Station.
Taipei’s Urban Redevelopment Office Director Lin Chung-chieh (林崇傑) said his office would communicate with construction firms and landowners in hopes of seeking better solutions.
Chang denied that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had pressured Hau to cancel the trip.
He reiterated Hau’s comments on Thursday that the demolition was a painful decision that pleased no one, but it is the city government’s duty to exercise authority and make way for the project, which has been stalled for almost three years because of the Wang family’s opposition.
Meanwhile, the protest in front of the Wang family’s former homes continued as members of the family, joined by supporters, demanded that Hau step down to take full responsibility for the demolition.
Wang Yao-teh (王耀德), a member of the Wang family, urged the city to also halt the construction project as well as suspend all controversial urban renewal projects.
Chang said the city government must take any action in accordance with the law. As to criticisms of flaws in urban renewal regulations, he said the city would discuss the issue with the Ministry of the Interior and the legislature, as the power to revise the regulations was the central government’s jurisdiction.