A protest about a brutal land seizure two days ago ended without giving the protesters a chance to talk to the President. But the issue has sparked widespread interest and media coverage throughout the island. The Taipei Times summarized yesterday:
Yesterday, the demonstrators sowed seeds on Ketagalan Boulevard to show that they are determined to have their farmland returned to them.This heartbreaking video tells the farmers' story. The case is so egregious that even the normally pro-KMT United Daily News gave the farmers some sympathy, and it made the Hong Kong papers. The case was described last week:
“We are all farmers. We are praying to the gods to stop land expropriation,” said Liu Ching-chang (劉慶昌), a farmer in Erchongpu (二重埔) in Hsinchu County’s Jhudong Township (竹東).
Farmers from Dapu Borough (大埔) in Jhunan Township (竹南) and Wanbao Borough in Houlong Township (後龍), both in Miaoli County, Jhubei City (竹北), Erchongpu in Hsinchu County, Siangsiliao (相思寮) in Changhua County’s Erlin Township (二林) and Taipei County’s Tucheng (土城) gathered in front of the Presidential Office on Saturday night because all the communities have faced, or may be facing, government expropriation to make way for various development projects.
Although farmers across the country have been fighting land expropriation for years, their campaign did not gain public attention until the Miaoli County Government sent excavators escorted by police to dig up rice paddies in Dapu last month.
The Miaoli County Government is taking over 28 hectares of farmland in Jhunan Township’s Dapu Borough (大埔), a farming village, to make way for the expansion of Jhunan Science Park.According to Taiwan News, the protesters are calling for "an immediate halt to development projects on which local governments and businessmen appear to be colluding; the passage of amendments to the land expropriation law; and the convening of a national conference in six months on agricultural and land policies." An earlier Taiwan News article said:
Last month, excavators dispatched by the county government forced their way into rice paddies and destroyed rice plants, despite opposition from local farmers.
“Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung [劉政鴻] said the county government was acting according to the law and had completed the legal process to transfer land ownership, but we don’t think so,” Thomas Chan (詹順貴), an attorney and a member of the Taiwan Rural Front, told a press conference yesterday.
“We discovered that the county government’s land expropriation notice was posted nearly half a year before the project was approved by the MOI last year,” Chan said. “That is unlawful.”
Letters from Taiwan has further information, including video of police hauling off farmers as their land is illegally destroyed. He writes:
Independent legislator Kang Shih-ju, a former mayor of Chunan, said the result proved that Liu was authoritarian and obstinate. Experts had suggested several legal ways out of the problem, but the ruling Kuomintang politician still did not want to listen, Kang said.
The lawmaker said there would have been no confrontation if the county only wanted to expropriate the original 23 hectares for the project, but the problem was it later added a further 5 hectares, infuriating local farmers.
On June 9th 2010, caterpillar excavators moved into a track of land owned by local Miaoli farmers to destroy their crops against their wishes. These crops were two months away from harvest. They did this on the orders of KMT Miaoli County Magistrate 劉政鴻（Liu, Cheng-Hung) whilst negotiations were underway between the County Government and local residents over a fair price for the Government requisition of land.The problem is not just that land is being seized without proper compensation and without due process. In many cases the farmland around the parks will likely be heavily polluted -- in the case of the Houli Science Park, the pollution is being shunted by pipe across Taichung and Changhua Counties to be dumped in the Choshui River. Ugh.
This was despite the fact that the Miaoli County Council passed a resolution stating that the Government could buy the land but only at a fair price agreed to by the owners of the land. Not only were negotiations unfinished but residents were prevented from stopping the caterpillar excavators from continuing their work by hundreds of police who were called in to the scene. These police also prevented the local KMT Legislator 康世儒 from entering the site (5:21 on the video below).
The reason for this forced requisition is that Terry Guo (Hon Hai, Foxconn) amongst others wanted extra land to build(extend?) the Jhunan Science Park since the original area of land allocated for the park was deemed too small, so the extra land below was also included. (This is despite the fact that sufficient land area in an existing science park was readily available). For more information see ... here.
UPDATE: Interesting discussion in the comments.
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