Starting late on Tuesday night and continuing until yesterday morning, waves of clashes broke out between police and protesters at the Huaguang Community (華光社區) in Taipei, as tearful residents packed their belongings ahead of the forced demolition of their homes.
“Forced demolition is tyranny,” shouted about 100 protesters — mostly students — as they pushed against police barriers yesterday morning from the west end of a blocked section of Jinhua St.
Amid the clashes, several protestors tried to take police shields, while others attempted to break down barriers. They briefly succeeded in penetrating the police line, but were quickly pushed back, and at least three protesters were arrested.
The clashes started on Tuesday night and flared several times throughout the night and into yesterday morning.
At about 10:30pm on Tuesday, a woman on a scooter appeared in front of the police barrier at the east end of the blockaded section of the street, saying that her house was in the area that was fenced off at 5pm on Tuesday and she wanted to go home.
Officers did not allow her to pass, and told her to go around through another alley. However, the woman refused, saying that she wanted to go home the way she always did.
The officers insisted and the crowd shouted out in support of the woman. Clashes broke out as protesters began climbing over the barricade and although the police reacted immediately, the protesters succeeded in toppling the fence, forcing officers to retreat to a second line.
Most of protesters then sat in front of the police line throughout the night, but scattered verbal and physical conflicts continued to occur.
Meanwhile, residents were busy packing their belongings.
“I will be staying with my daughter and her husband for now, but I don’t know where I can call home afterward,” a resident surnamed Yang (楊) said in tears as she burned religious artifacts and books. “These Buddhist portraits have been on the altar in my house for more than 50 years, but now I don’t have a place for them, because I don’t even have a home myself. I could only apologize to them and cremate them.”
Over the entrance of the small house where Yang lived was a hand-written sign, saying: “I am homeless and indebted,” as Yang, like the other residents of the community, had been sued by the Ministry of Justice for the illegal occupation of government land and are to be fined for illegal profiteering.
“I don’t know how I have ‘illegally profited,’ because though I don’t own the land, I own the house and I’ve always paid my property tax,” Yang said. “If it’s illegal, would the government give back my tax money?”
Displaying a property tax payment notice, a woman surnamed Liao (廖) said she wanted to ask the government whether she still has to pay the tax.
“The tax payment period is between May 1 and May 31, but my house is going to be torn down today [Wednesday], do I still have to pay the tax?” she asked.
“We’re not illegally staying in this house, because my parents-in-law purchased this house with their own money when they moved from Yunlin County to Taipei in the 1950s,” Liao added. “The ministry sued us, we lost the lawsuit, we don’t want to move, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re willing to move, but why can’t the government give us more time? Why do we still have to pay a fine after losing everything here?”
The Liao family has to pay more than NT$1.6 million (US$53,700) for “illegal profiteering” from the “illegal occupation” of government property, on top of the demolition costs.
Another part of the Huaguang Community is scheduled to be flattened next month.
Over the past 24 hours, 14 students have been charged with interfering with public works during the clashes.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang