Greater Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan’s (鄭文燦) endorsement of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project has drawn furious opposition from local residents and activist groups.
The Aerotropolis project requires the expropriation of more than 3,000 hectares of private land housing about 46,000 people, making it the largest eviction plan in the nation’s history. It would see commercial and residential areas, as well as a free economic pilot zone, established around Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
The groups said that Cheng supporting the project made him seem “schizophrenic” toward the issue, because when he was running for mayor on the Democratic Progressive Party’s ticket, he had vowed to reconsider it.
The criticism was sparked by remarks Cheng made at a municipal meeting in Taoyuan on Wednesday, where he said he would refrain from “making any hasty modifications” to the Aerotropolis project, since the plan has already been approved and changing it would “affect land prices in the area.”
He said that the area designated for development would serve as a local commercial hub in the future, adding that the construction plans should be implemented according to the principles of democratic participation and transparency.
Led by the Taiwan Association of Human Rights (TAHR) and the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Self-Help Organization, dozens of protesters rallied outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday, where Cheng was attending a meeting.
The groups also blasted Premier Mao Chih-kuo (毛治國) and Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) for “recklessly imposing” the plan.
“We wonder if Cheng has buckled under pressure from the central government,” TAHR deputy secretary-general Wang Pao-hsuan (王寶萱) said. “We urge Cheng to fulfill the promises he made to his voters.”
Given that the environmental impact assessment of a proposal to build a third runway at the airport is not set to take place until 2022, it is unreasonable to make land expropriation plans now, Wang said.
National Chengchi University professor Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮) said the amount of land expropriations carried out in a country can be seen as an indicator of the development of human rights.
Taiwan’s land seizure legislation was established during the Martial Law era — legally equipping the government to abuse its power in this area, Hsu added.
In response, Cheng said that any expropriation for the Aerotropolis project would only be executed with the consent of local residents, adding that any changes to core areas of the plan would need to be negotiated with the central government.
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