Kaohsiung authorities yesterday began demolition of the Paiwan Ljavek community, tearing down 11 houses and leaving the remaining residents without water and electricity.
The Kaohsiung City Government on Jan. 22 issued a notice to residents that they had to leave their homes on Jhonghua 5th Road (中華五路) by March 20.
However, during a question-and-answer session at the Kaohsiung City Council on March 16, Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) agreed to negotiate with the community’s residents, which led many of them to believe the government was reconsidering its eviction plan, the Ljavek residents’ group said.
Photo: Fang Chih-hsien, Taipei Times
Residents were shocked when they learned late on Sunday night that demolition had been scheduled to begin at 5:30am yesterday, the group said.
Residents held a news conference at 5:30am yesterday, urging the city to communicate with them before tearing down their homes.
About two hours after the news conference ended, the city government mobilized about 200 police officers and several excavators and began demolishing some of the structures.
Among the residents evicted by police was 81-year-old Chen Tien-chou (陳天球), who climbed on top of his house to protest the city’s actions, but was brought down by officers.
About 40 residents stood on the street and watched as the 11 houses were demolished: five that belonged to Paiwan families and six owned by ethnic Han.
The city government was a “bully,” said Kang Yi-ren (康義仁), who heads the residents’ group and whose family has lived in the community for three generations.
“The government was originally planning to tear down the houses at 5:30am, but it waited until the news conference was over and the crowd went away to begin the demolition. They did not even give us a formal notice. What kind of government is that?” Kang said.
“Chen Chu on March 16 said there was room for negotiation. How is demolishing our houses leaving room for negotiation?” Kang added.
While some houses are still intact, the demolition work damaged power and water supply lines, leaving the entire community without tap water or power.
The city government said the buildings were deemed illegal in 1999, and they were a fire hazard.
The government has offered residents compensation to move to two different locations in the city, but most residents have refused on the grounds that it would tear apart their Aboriginal community and undermine the preservation of their culture.
Kaohsiung City Councilor Chen Li-na (陳麗娜) said the Ljavek residents have lived in the community for more than 60 years and are the nation’s only Aboriginal community in an urban area.
Additional reporting by Ge Yu-hao
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