Supporters and opponents of a controversial urban renewal project in Taipei yesterday called for government intervention to resolve the deadlock, while opponents accused the police of favoring the construction firm.
“This is a lose-lose situation for everyone — the Wangs (王), the residents who agreed to the [Wenlin Yuan renewal project], Le Young Construction Co, the construction workers and the police,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said at a press conference. “You [the Taipei City Government] have started all of this, you cannot just stand aside and do nothing when the two groups are in a standoff.”
The Wenlin Yuan urban renewal project was initiated by Le Young to demolish decades-old apartment buildings in Shilin District (士林), Taipei, to build a high-rise luxury apartment complex.
While the majority of residents, accounting for 36 households, agreed to take part in the project, the Wang family, which owns two townhouses, refused to give up their properties, and asked to be excluded from the urban renewal project.
However, since the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例) permits a project to go ahead if more than three-quarters of property owners agree to it, the Wangs’ houses were flattened by a demolition squad sent by the city government in March.
After the demolition, opponents of the project who support the Wangs’ decision to defend their properties stalled the construction and engaged in several clashes with Le Young construction workers. Meanwhile, members of the 36 households are upset that they could not move into their new apartments as scheduled.
“We have agreed to take part in the project, and followed the law, so why is a legally approved project stalled?” said Hsieh Chun-chiao (謝春嬌), one of the residents who agreed to the project. “We’ve been renting a temporary residence. We want to go home as soon as possible, and the government should help to defend our rights.”
Huang Hui-yu (黃慧瑜) of the Coalition of Taiwan Urban Renewal Victims agreed with Hsieh on urging government intervention.
“The 36 households want to go home, as do the Wangs. It’s time for the government to stand up and help to resolve the deadlock,” she said.
Huang also accused the government of favoring the construction firm when conflicts occurred between opponents of the project and construction workers.
In a video clip, an officer was seen insisting on removing a student from the project site who was showing his support for the Wangs.
When the student asked on what legal basis he was being removed, the officer said: “I am the law,” and asked construction workers nearby if they wanted to file a lawsuit against the student, telling the workers: “If you want to sue him, I can take him away immediately.”
In response, a Construction and Planning Agency representative said it was the local government’s responsibility to deal with the issue and that the agency would not intervene unless the city government asked for help.
The Taipei City Urban Redevelopment Office said it has “tried to negotiate between the two sides” and would “look further into the proposal to create a special task force.”