Dozens of Huaguang Community (華光社區) residents and their supporters yesterday demonstrated outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei, asking it to come up with a plan to help them resettle and to withdraw lawsuits against them instead of threatening them with eviction to make way for an urban renewal project.
Located near Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Huaguang Community is a neighborhood of about 60 households, mostly made up of low-ranking soldiers who fled the Chinese Civil War with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime in 1949 and their descendants.
While the land on which the community is located is the property of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), most of residents have lived there for decades — and some non-Mainlander families have even been there for generations — without any problems.
With the word “home” written upside-down on red posters, symbolizing that their homes have collapsed because of the government’s eviction order, as well as lawsuits demanding millions of NT dollars from each household in compensation for occupying government property, the economically disadvantaged community residents rallied outside the Executive Yuan, asking it to seek a solution to their problems.
In the early 2000s, the government presented an urban renewal project and asked the predominantly economically disadvantaged families to move away, triggering a number of protests.
Although city and central government officials — including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), when he served as mayor of Taipei — have made repeated promises to help residents resettle, what they eventually received was not a resettlement plan, but lawsuits over illegal occupation brought by the ministry, and a demand for millions of NT dollars in compensation from each household.
“How am I supposed to pay?” 73-year-old Chiu Chun-hsiung (邱春雄) said yesterday. “I’m old, ill and poor. I don’t have money, I can no longer work and I have no place to go.”
Chiu said that he has lived in the community for more than 40 years in a house that his parents passed down to him.
“I don’t know how my parents got the house, but during the decades I’ve lived there, I’ve always had power, running water and a house number, and I’ve paid real-estate tax every year,” Chiu said. “How was I supposed to know that I was living there illegally? Why didn’t you [the government] tell me earlier, when I was younger and able to work, to find another place to live?”
Chiu added that, besides worrying about where to go, what really troubles him is that the court has frozen his bank account and he has no money for the Lunar New Year.
“Most of the residents here are soldiers who followed the KMT government to Taiwan. The government allowed them to live here at the time and all of a sudden, the government says that it’s illegal for them to live here, asking them to leave and pay millions of NT dollars. How cruel is that?” another resident surnamed Chu (朱) said. “This is a historical issue that the government needs to take care of.”
Hsu Yi-fu (徐亦甫), a political science student at National Taiwan University who has long been helping Huaguang residents, urged the government to take a broader view on the issue, since this is not an isolated case.
Hsu said that when the KMT retreated to Taiwan, they brought millions of soldiers and civilians from China with them, and settled these people in “temporary” housing quarters similar to Huaguang Community around the country.
“They may not have lived in these places ‘legally,’ but because of the unique historic background of these living quarters, the resettlement of these residents should be given special considerations,” Hsu said.
“The central and local governments should stop holding each other responsible for solving the issue,” he added.