Clashes broke out between “tree protection” volunteers and police at New Taipei Municipal Chiang-Tsui Junior High School yesterday morning after construction workers arrived to remove trees for a construction project on the campus.
The plan to remove 32 trees from the school to build a swimming pool and underground parking lot has been criticized strongly by nearby residents, teachers and environmentalists, who say the campus’ “sea of trees” is the only piece of green with trees in the neighborhood.
Twenty-six of the trees are to be moved to another park, while six would be replanted in the area after the construction work is completed.
“Tree protection” volunteers have been tree-sitting since March, after activists said construction workers were using what they considered inappropriate methods, including over-trimming, to remove the trees. Environmentalist Pan Han-chiang (潘翰疆) staged a sit-in in one of the trees for 12 days before being taken down by the police in late March.
Screaming and yelling was heard yesterday as several volunteers tried to block a truck from entering the campus by standing in front of it. Scuffles then broke out when volunteers who had tied themselves together to protect the trees were forcibly removed by police officers.
Shouting “Disrespect for judiciary, damaging the rule of law,” Green Party Taiwan members Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) and Wang Chung-ming (王鐘銘), and a volunteer surnamed Chen (陳) were taken away by police for allegedly “committing malfeasance in office.”
The volunteers said removing the old trees in hot weather and in a rough manner could kill them.
Pan Han-chiang said one of eight trees that were removed earlier has died, while seven others were seriously damaged, which is why the volunteers were so determined to protect the remaining trees.
The New Taipei City’s (新北市) Public Works Department said in a press release that it was conducting the tree removal effort like “marrying off daughter” (嫁女兒) in an effort to improve the environment.
It said the operation was being conducted with the help of specialists.
It said it had reevaluated the tree removal plan to ensure appropriate protection measures were being taken, and that records would be kept during the process.
The plan is to finish the operation in five days and the public is welcome to oversee the process, the department said.