Residents of HoulongTownship (後龍) , Miaoli County, yesterday accused police of physically assaulting them for protesting the construction of funeral facility and cemetery park and accused Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) of illegal colluding with the private developer of the project.
A video recording shown at a press conference organized by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) and Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) showed hundreds of Miaoli police officers pushing their way into the crowd to guard the entrance to the site and clashing with the protesters, most of whom were elderly farmers, at about 6am on Wednesday.
Contractors were able to start construction work on the Gods Park, a 24.8 hectare funeral facility and cemetery park described by the Miaoli County Government as its flagship “Build-Own-Operate” (BOO) project, after more than 300 policemen cleared the site, leaving at least one woman injured.
The woman, Du Lin Yin-mei (杜林銀妹) showed her head injury at the press conference and said police officers carrying riot shields and truncheons had said nothing before they started to push and hit demonstrators, who were part of a self-help group.
National Police Administration section chief Chen Chin-ling (陳金陵) said Miaoli police cleared the crowd because the protesters had caused serious traffic concerns by blocking Provincial Highway No. 1, but he said the county police department would review its enforcement procedures.
The Miaoli County Police Department did not send a representatives to the press conference.
Chen Chi-mai said the police department had abused its power by using unnecessary force against peaceful and unarmed demonstrators.
The incident was the latest in a long list of controversial law enforcement cases in Miaoli County, after the county government seized farmland in Dapu Township (大埔) by blocking off roads and sending excavators into farms in June 2010, attracting national attention, Chen said.
“This is a second Dapu incident and once again County Commissioner Liu has made himself the enemy of the people with his ruthlessness,” Chen added.
Wu described the incident as a second “Shilin (士林) incident,” referring to an incident where a local government acted to protect contractors against protesting members of the public.
The Shilin incident grabbed the national spotlight in late March, when police officers were ordered by the Taipei City Government to evict residents from a 135-year-old two-story building in Shilin District belonging to a family surnamed Wang, in order to make way for an urban renewal project.
Longkeng Village (龍坑) head Kuo Kuei-hui (郭貴輝) said neither the government nor the contractor had bothered to consult local people about the God’s Park project, which began in 2007, and that residents are worried about environmental pollution and the park’s proximity to two elementary schools.
Liu used his administrative powers to reduce the minimum legal distance between schools and cemeteries from 300m to 250m, self-help group president Hsu Chin-fu (許金福) said.
“And the change was made after the agreement was signed between Miaoli County Government and the contractors,” Hsu added.