Huaguang Community (華光社區) residents and other activists yesterday rallied outside the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) against its demand that residents who lost their homes pay fines for benefiting from their illegal occupation of government land.
“It is ridiculous that the government has not only torn down their houses, but also wants them to pay fines for ‘illegal gains’ from their ‘illegal occupation,’” activist Ho Yu-lun (何友倫) said in front of the ministry. “It’s nonsense for the ministry to say that they have illegally benefited from illegally occupying government land, because these residents had been given house numbers by the government, provided with water and electricity, and had paid property taxes for the past 30 years.”
Ho said these facts show that the issue with Huaguag Community is complicated.
“If you build a house in the middle of Daan Forest Park, do you think you would be given a house number, utilities and asked to pay taxes?” Ho said.
Huaguang resident Sun Hsiu-mei (孫秀美) said fines have placed a heavy burden on the families.
“I have three kids to raise, and you are asking me to pay NT$700,000 [US$23,000] — with the interest increasing daily,” Sun said. “There is also a man, surnamed Yu [余], who is in his 60s with two children and he has been asked to pay NT$1 million. However, his youngest child is the only one who is able to make money to feed the family.”
“Now that our homes have been torn down, there is nothing we can do, but can the government at least stop trying to get money from us?” Sun said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) attended the rally to show her support for the residents.
If the government is determined to pursue fines from the residents, “it should be just as determined to pursue the ‘responsibility’ of the civil servants who made the decision to provide utilities and house numbers, and collect taxes from people who ‘illegally’ occupied government land for more than 30 years,” Tien said.
She criticized President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for breaking a promise made when he was mayor of Taipei to help the residents resettle before their homes were demolished.