Greater Tainan residents affected by a project to move a railway underground staged a protest outside Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei yesterday, demanding that DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) intervene in the controversy involving Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德).
The protesters said that Su’s responsibility was inescapable since he was familiar with the project as a former premier and because Lai is a party member.
“Moreover, as the DPP paid so much attention to the Dapu Borough (大埔) case, it should also care about this project, because essentially it is exactly the same in substance,” National Taipei University professor Liao Pen-chuan (廖本全) said.
In both cases, Liao said, the government was trying to reap the benefits of land expropriation and has favored developers, while disregarding people’s property rights.
Houses on the east side of the current tracks in downtown Tainan are to be demolished to make way for an underground railway. When the project is completed, the original surface tracks are to be removed to make way for a park and a commercial district.
The protesters oppose the land expropriation and relocation, favoring an alternative plan that would only “borrow” the land from residents during the construction phase, which Lai rejected.
The protesters said the DPP should not nominate Lai as a candidate in next year’s mayoral election. They also demanded that the underground tracks not to be moved east, saying the move is unnecessary.
Resident Huang Lung-cheng (黃隆正) said that more than 400 houses would be demolished and residents suspect that the Greater Tainan Government would benefit by developing the land.
The protesters tried to enter the DPP’s offices on the ninth and the 10th floors of the building, but they were locked out, before briefly engaging in a heated exchange with DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lin Yu-sheng (林育生), who was sent by the party to meet with them.
They left the building after about three hours without meeting Su.
In response to the protest, the Greater Tainan Government issued a press release yesterday afternoon saying that the railway project was different from the Dapu case, which expropriated private properties to make way for a science park, because all the expropriated land would be used by the public.
The local government denied that Lai refused to communicate with local residents, listing at least six meetings between them since August last year.
A review of the Executive Yuan’s design and the local residents’ proposal, which compared the two from the viewpoints of construction safety, transportation impact and urban development, found that the latter was no better than the former, the Greater Tainan Government said.