A crowd gathered to watch in disbelief as police, taking their orders from the Taipei City Government, barged their way into a 135-year-old two-story building in Shilin District (士林) belonging to a family named Wang, to evict residents and make way for an urban renewal project.The "urban renewal project" was actually a development project run by a private developer. The developer wanted to knock down old houses and put up the usual cookie cutter 15-story apartment building. The city government, as always, simply intervened on behalf of the developer's profits. The case bore many similarities to a case familiar to Americans, the Supreme Court's venal and amoral decision in the infamous Kelo vs. New London case.
People were left wondering what kind of government it is that not only fails to protect people’s property, but also evicts owners from their ancestral home.
Saying that more than 75 percent of the landowners on the block had agreed to the terms of the renewal project, the city government yesterday said that forceful eviction was a last resort and implemented it in line with the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例), adding that in doing so it was merely enforcing the rights of the majority.
About 1,000 police were involved in the eviction, which resulted in broken windows and damage to furniture. It is unlikely that the Wangs still believe in Article 15 of the Constitution, which guarantees regular people’s right to own property.
If the Urban Renewal Act is truly fair and in the public interest as the city government claims, why have more than 200 complaints against it been filed in Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市)?
The Wangs’ case shows how government agencies are sometimes reduced to the role of hired thugs for construction firms when the latter refuse to negotiate any further with residents and instead ask the city government to evict those who have refused to sign on the dotted line and have their home demolished.
There are innumerable cases like this. The law says that a local homeowners association must be formed to negotiate with the developer; in many cases prior to announcing the project the developer sends in people to purchase plots in the neighborhood and then be in the Homeowners Association to negotiate with their paymasters. Local authorities know that these associations are totally bogus but treat them as serious. Threats and actual violence are not uncommon, since there is only one true sin in Taiwan: to stand between a developer and his profits.
The legislature, keen to follow public opinion, grilled the Minister of the Interior about the issue. The Taipei Times duly reported:
“There were some elements of injustice involved in the urban renewal project, and some rethinking of the urban renewal mechanism may be needed,” Lee said. “I’m worried that what happened to the Wangs may become an obstacle to urban renewal, and that would not be a good thing for the country.”Other elements of the decision reported in the Taipei Times were par for the course. The building site had never been inspected by the local government for fire safety and other issues; apparently everything had been done by documents. Note how the Urban Renewal Act is written so that the developers can call in the government to enforce their will on the local community. Well, I guess it's an improvement over gangsters.
Lee made the remarks during a meeting at the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee meeting, as he and Construction and Planning Agency Director-General Yeh Shi-wen (葉世文) were bombarded by questions by lawmakers across party lines who were upset over the eviction of the Wangs and the large number of police sent by the Taipei City Government.
The Wangs were the only family left who had refused to take part in the urban renewal project. However, the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例) stipulates that, as long as the construction firm has obtained the consent of 75 percent of the land owners on a project site, it can ask the government to demolish the rest of the buildings by force.
The Interior Minister's remarks were especially delightful -- the Minister expresses worry that the Wang case might become an "obstacle to urban renewal" -- meaning, an obstacle to developers making money.
The photo at the top of this post shows the irony of the government's position -- the Wang's house is annihilated, since the Urban Renewal Act was amended so that less than unanimous consent among affected homeowners is necessary to permit the developer to make the project go -- but that hideous hotel on the beach in Taitung, an eyesore visible for kilometers around the coast, which should never have received a permit and whose case is full of irregularities, remains unmolested by the government (description of the case).
REF: Blog of a local reporter who has been following the case.
- China's South China Sea expansion driving military build-up, defense choices in the region
- Tkacik says Taiwan has already said it is part of China.
- Taiex falls on fears of capital gains tax. Premier says it is all just talk.
- Just when you thought there was something Chinese didn't eat...yes they eat it.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.