Thursday, April 05, 2012

Student Activism over the Wang House

The recent story on the Wang house in Taipei, demolished at the behest of a developer using a phalanx of hundreds of policemen is resonating deeply with locals. Student groups are mobilizing to maintain a presence at the site in the Taipei suburb of Shihlin:
Students have set up tents and a makeshift station at the site of the Wangs’ former residence, with posters and slogans such as “Buy a house at 40 and see it demolished at 70” lining the makeshift walls.

Although the construction site has been walled off, an opening remains, giving protesters and the Wang family access to the worksite.

Liu Hsiao-hsin (劉曉欣), a fine arts student from National Taiwan Normal University who has slept at the site for eight days, said it was shocking to see the government use its administrative power to demolish a residence that would take most people a lifetime to buy.

“A lot of people came out and supported our actions, but they couldn’t stay because they have jobs and have to support their families,” said Liu, who had also participated in recent rallies in support of the rights of workers, farmers and minority groups.


Liu said that prior to the demolition, she and other supporters had slept on the floor of the Wangs’ house, but they have since relocated and were now sleeping beneath the MRT line.
The student protests over the Wang house show many of the same elements as those previously seen in the Losheng Sanitorium protests -- a perceived injustice against an underdog by developers with no clear Blue/Green definition. I've talked to many of my students about this, and they all seem to think it is an injustice. Students will come out to protest when the injustice is clear and when they cannot be divided because the protests can be made to appear as if they support one party or the other, as happened with the Wild Strawberry protests, which were impaired by accusations of being too pro-Green. There seems to be a vast well of energy for student action in Taiwan that is curtailed by the effect of the Blue/Green divide...

Meanwhile the Taipei city government suspended similar moves at two other places even as it vowed to continue "urban renewal"....
Taipei City’s Urban Redevelopment Office said last week that it would halt the scheduled demolition of houses in two other urban renewal projects — on Wuhsin Street and near Yongchun MRT Station — that involved landowners who were unwilling to move, until the city government and the ministry completed their discussions on the legal aspects of urban renewal projects.

“We are not suspending all urban renewal projects in Taipei. Right now we have only halted the demolition work in two projects because some landowners have refused to take part in the projects. The city government’s stance to promote urban redevelopment is unchanged,” Hau said.
By "urban renewal" the city fathers apparently mean turning the city over to the whims of developers..... several of the students I spoke to this week remarked on how cynical they thought the Administration of Mayor Hau is being -- only after the Wang house was safely demolished did it suddenly have doubts about the legality of its actions....
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Anonymous said...

The tactics of developers should also be exposed. Have firsthand account of a their actions in a similar situation. In that case developers tried to cobble together a "majority" by deceit, with developers telling reluctant neighbors that others have already bought in, when in fact they haven't; also certain individuals allowing "official" changes to street widths that cut into people's property and destroying gardens, private open areas.

Anonymous said...

Right, "urban renewal". Because when I think of places that are run-down and need government initiative to spur economic revival, I think of Taipei!

Disgusting, but so typical of mainlander culture. Using foreign terms and ideas as status symbols to show that they are culturally superior, yet whether out of ignorance or out of malice, completely twisting the meaning of the original term.