Hundreds of farmers from across the country yesterday staged a rally in Taipei to protest against the government’s “arbitrary regulations” that deprive them of their right of abode and their livelihood.
The parade started from the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau and ended at Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.
Holding banners that read: “Give us back our land,” the protesters, many of whom were elderly farmers, appealed to the government to allow them to continue growing fruit and crops on the land that they have cultivated for years, instead of restraining their right of abode by designating these areas as national parks.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Tseng Te-tsung (曾得總), general-director of the parade and chairperson of Taiwan Original Cultivation Farmers’ Association, said many of the farmers and their families had been farming their lands since the Japanese colonial era (from 1895 to 1945) or long before that.
However, when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government took over from the Japanese colonial government, it arbitrarily designated large tracts of the land as national parks and placed them under state ownership, Tseng said.
A fruit farmer surnamed Chen (陳) from Greater Kaohsiung’s Tianliao District (田寮) said: “We farmers don’t ask for a wealthy life, but when the government takes our land, it not only deprives us of our possessions, but also puts us out of work.”
Chen accused the government of violating the Constitution, which guarantees protection of people’s right of habitation and livelihood.
He added that the government should assist self-farming land owners and people who live on the land when planning and redistributing land resources.
Many farmers don’t understand the law that protects their rights and many were not given the chance to apply and register for ownership over the land, he said.
Many farmers are only allowed to temporarily rent the farmlands that they have been living on for decades, he said.
A fruit farmer surnamed Tsai (蔡), having been forced to tear down many parts of his house already, said he was recently fined another NT$120,000 for occupying state-owned property.
He said the government has been bullying farmers for many years, but all they ask for is the legitimacy to continue farming and living on the land.
The farmers urged the government to rethink its land redistribution policy instead of arbitrarily driving out those who have lived on the land for years or accusing them of breaking the law.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝), who took part in the protest, said the government was wrong to dispossess farmers of the land and prosecute them for occupying state land.
“If these cases continue to happen, it will only generate hatred among the people,” he said.
In a statement released last night, the Forestry Bureau said: “The management of national parks and related measures will be modified in consideration of the farmers.”
“Standard acts of changing national parks into private land will be discussed with other related government agencies,” it added.
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