The Railway Bureau yesterday decided to delay the demolition of a property as part of the Tainan City Government’s railway relocation project after the owner locked himself inside.
The decision was made after protesters and homeowner Chen Chih-hsiao (陳致曉) locked themselves into the property, which was scheduled to be demolished as part of project to move city’s railway lines underground, the bureau’s central office said.
The bureau said that it wanted to avoid a heated conflict that could result in injuries.
Despite arranging for police to be stationed at the site from 6am and moving machinery to Tainan’s East District (東區), the office said the protesters had still managed to enter the property and lock themselves inside.
Chen is the head of an association, formed in 2012, that advocates against the railway relocation project.
The planning for the project began in 1993 and it was approved in 2009 by then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Protests began when then-Tainan mayor William Lai (賴清德), now vice president, implemented the project in 2012.
Lawyer Thomas Chan (詹順貴) yesterday wrote on social media in support of Chen that it was “so ironic” that Chen’s father, who is more than 90 years old, kept a printed copy of the Democratic Progressive Party’s chapter in their home.
Officials attempted to negotiate with the protesters — as Chen had either not been present or had refused to speak to them — but failed to convince them to leave the property, the office said.
As the bureau was unable to secure Chen’s consent to enter the property, forced demolition was not possible, as it would have gone against the guiding principle of the project, it said.
Central office Division of Construction Affairs Wu Chih-jen (吳志仁) said that the office would continue to work with the city government to arrange negotiations with Chen.
Among the 340 properties in the area designated for demolition, 121 of the owners refused to move in May last year, but after negotiations and the first wave of forced demolitions, Chen’s property is the only one that remains.
Protestors say that the amount of land expropriated for the project is disproportionate to its needs and that the government intends to use part of the land for other developments.
The project to move existing railway lines underground was due to be completed in June 2024, but becuase of delays, the projected completion date has been moved to 2026, the office said.
The office previously estimated that it would be able to “obtain” the land for the project by the end of this month.
Additional reporting by Wang Chieh
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