More than 100 people from Taoyuan County’s Jhongli City (中壢) yesterday urged the county government to take responsibility for store units that they bought about 20 years ago. The units were part of a seemingly promising shopping mall construction project, which was later found to be later illegal and the unit owners are yet to be reimbursed.
“We trusted the government, so my father and I did not hesitate to buy two store units when we saw it, each of them costing about NT$3 million [US$102,000] at the time, and we made a down payment of NT$2.86 million,” Peng Kang-mu (彭康木), one of the buyers, told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.
“We borrowed money to make the down payment, but we didn’t get what we paid for, and haven’t got the money back either,” Peng said.
The chairwoman of the buyers’ self-help organization, Chang Hsiu-jung (張秀榕), said the information they received in 1991 was that the county and the city governments planned to build a shopping mall with a parking lot and apartment units along the Laojie River (老街溪) that flows through Jhongli and that the government had contracted out the project to a private construction firm.
“We never thought there would be any problems because the local government endorsed it, but we only found out later the then-Taiwan Provincial Government only gave permission to build a parking lot, not a shopping center as was advertised,” Chang said.
“Hence, we never got to use the unit we bought for even a single day while the construction firm run a paid parking lot on the site,” Chang added.
“The county government demolished the complex last year and we never get our money back,” she added.
Chang showed a video clip of a TV commercial and a poster for the shopping mall, in which the mall was described as a three-story building with a parking lot on the first floor, stores on the second and apartment units on the third.
She also showed a video clip of the late Taoyuan County Commissioner, Liu Pang-yu (劉邦友), speaking at a ceremony to launch construction of the complex on Jan. 15, 1991.
In the video, Liu said the construction project was “good news not only for Jhongli City, but also for Taoyuan County,” adding that once completed, the complex would provide 1,200 parking spaces and around 800 store units.
“The problem we’re facing today is the result of a wrongful decision made by the county and city governments 20 years ago. We’re shouldering the responsibility, but what have we done wrong? We didn’t do anything wrong,” the self-help organization’s vice chairman Liu Chin-lung (劉金龍) said.
He said it is unfair that the government is not taking responsibility for their mistake and that the construction firm has benefited from the project.
“The construction firm built the complex with our down payment money, though the shopping center was never inaugurated, they made money from running a parking lot on the site for the past 20 years,” Liu said. “And we the buyers, the most innocent stakeholders, are not getting anything.”
In response, deputy director of Taoyuan County Water Resources Bureau Chiu Feng-hsiu (邱峰旭) said the buyers are not allowed to use the store units because the county government would not issue licenses to use them.
“The problem was that the finished building was going to be different from what was allowed to be built when the county government issued the construction permit,” he said.