Residents of the Atayal Aboriginal village of Hagay in Taoyuan County’s Fusing Township (復興) yesterday protested the county government’s 10-year delay in rebuilding their village after the original one was destroyed in a natural disaster.
“We want to go home! We want to go back to a real home!” Hagay residents, accompanied by rights advocates and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), shouted during a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.
“It’s been 10 years and we still live in temporary housing units,” said Tai Li-chuan (戴禮娟), a spokeswoman for the village.
“The county government never fulfilled its promise to rebuild the village for us according to our wishes,” Tai added.
The location of the original Hagay Village along the Dahan River (大漢溪) was put in danger in the 1990s because the construction of a dam altered the river’s course.
The dam collapsed in 2001 when Typhoon Nari dumped a massive amount of water in the river’s catchment area, which the dam could not handle, leaving the downstream Atayal Baling Village in ruins.
The government then resettled members of the community in Shangsule — originally only for three years — while promising to build new homes for them there. However, the houses were never built.
In addition to the delay in the reconstruction process, Hagay villagers are also not satisfied with the county government’s plan to build 17 ping (56m2) houses consisting of one room, one bathroom and one living room for each family, saying that was insufficient space for their families, Tai said.
Villagers then put forward their own plans for two or three-story houses last year, but the county government turned down the request, she said.
“The government was quick to demolish the homes of the Wangs in Shilin District (士林), Taipei City, yet it is taking so long to rebuild houses for disaster victims,” Taiwan Association for Human Rights executive member and Soochow University law professor Wu Hao-jen (吳豪人) said, referring to the Taipei City Government’s forcible eviction of a family named Wang (王) on Wednesday last week to make way for a new housing complex.
“The government always says that it acts according to the law, but if our laws are only causing people to become homeless, we don’t know what we need laws for,” Wu said.
However, Taoyuan County’s Indigenous Peoples Bureau Deputy Director Lin Ji-lung (林日龍), who also attended the news conference, rebutted the accusation.
“We have worked hard to fulfill our promise. It took us five years — from 2003 to 2008 — to complete the process of changing the land category of the planned reconstruction site from ‘forestry land’ to ‘building land,’” Lin said.
As for turning down the request to build bigger houses, Lin said that the construction method to be used in the plan initiated by the Hagay residents “is meant for transitional housing units, but we’re looking to build permanent houses.”