Saying they are not enemies of the state, but law-abiding and tax-paying citizens, residents from Taipei‘s Huaguang Community (華光社區) yesterday urged the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to waive or discount fines for their “illegally profiting” from the “illegal occupation” of government land.
“Please do not treat us as enemies of the state or untouchables. We are also citizens and we pay our taxes,” Huaguang resident Sun Hsiu-mei (孫秀美), whose house was demolished on Wednesday, told a press conference at the legislature. “We deserve more humane treatment. Now that you [the ministry] have flattened our houses, would you please just waive the fines against us?”
Sun made the remarks because she, along with many of the community’s residents, have been sued by the ministry for illegally occupying its land, and have been handed large fines — ranging from several dozen to millions of NT dollars — despite their legal ownership of the buildings on the land.
Chia Kai-yuan (賈楷媛), another resident, echoed Sun’s comments.
“How can the government be so brutal to its citizens? Most of our bank accounts have been frozen. How are we supposed to live when we cannot get money out of our accounts while our houses are gone?” Chia said. “Shouldn’t the government help us to resettle first?”
Resident Lin Ya-chi (林雅琪) said she understands that the ministry has the right to take the land back, but criticized it for not having taken into consideration the best interests of the people.
“The Ministry of Justice threatens us and pursues us for the fines. It freezes our bank accounts and tears down our houses,” Lin said. “What crime have we committed? Or is living in an area that has become valuable a crime?”
Yang Ho-chin (楊合進), director of the ministry’s secretariat, said that the ministry has already taken residents’ interests into consideration because it could have flattened the community in 2006.
“Please understand that if we don’t act now, the Control Yuan may launch an investigation into possible administrative irregularities on our part, and I could lose my pension,” Yang said.
Yang said that low-income households can apply to the courts for any fines to be discounted.
However, residents said that they have tried this approach, but their requests were turned down.
“The court said they would like to help, but they can’t do anything if the creditor — which is the Ministry of Justice in this case — does not agree to the request,” Lin said.
“Stop telling the public that you are helping, when in fact, you are turning down all our pleas for help,” Lin added.