Protesters yesterday clashed with police outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei as they called on Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to halt the forced demolition of houses in the city’s Huaguang Community (華光社區) and to stop fining residents whose houses are being torn down.
“No to forced evictions! Forced demolition is tyranny! Compensation is murder!” the protesters chanted as they approached police in front of the Executive Yuan.
The situation soon turned violent as police tried to stop the protesters entering the building.
Some protesters succeeded in breaking the police line, but were quickly apprehended by officers, while others tried to grab the officers’ riot shields, with police reacting by hitting them with the shields.
Despite the noisy and visible nature of the protest, attendees received no response from Executive Yuan officials.
The protesters also performed a street drama to mock what they portrayed as close ties between the government and the business community, since the Huaguang Community is to be flattened to make way for the construction of offices and shopping malls. They enacted a wedding between the premier and a veiled bride who turned out to be a major corporation.
The protesters also threw ghost money toward the Executive Yuan, protesting the government’s pursuit of compensation from residents of the community.
“Huaguang Community has been around for more than six decades. It’s true that the land may belong to the government, but residents legally own their houses and pay property taxes,” Huaguang resident Cheng Wei-hui (鄭偉慧) said.
“Most of the people living in Huaguang are elderly and the government should help them to resettle — as officials once promised — before tearing down their houses,” Cheng added.
Another resident, Sun Hsiu-mei (孫秀美), whose house was torn down last month, agreed.
“I get up earlier than a cockerel and I go to bed later than a ghost. I work harder than a cow and I eat worse than a pig; how am I able to pay the millions of NT dollars of compensation that the government wants from me when I don’t even have a place of my own?” Sun said.
Located in the heart of Taipei, the Huaguang Community was home to hundreds of households, many of whom were low-ranking soldiers who came to Taiwan from China with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime following its military defeat by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.
Although the houses are on government land, previous governments have unofficially allowed the residents to stay there, even assigning house numbers, connecting utilities, collecting property taxes and allowing property sales within the community.
However, in the early 2000s, the government announced a development project was being planned for the area, and most of the residents have since been charged with illegal occupation of government land and are being asked to compensate the government for “illegally benefiting” from their occupation of the land.