I've looked at student protests on this blog several times. The current generation of students is politically involved but in a way that is orthogonal to the Blue-Green divide: they tend to gather to protest in situations involving social justice issues that are not exclusively of one camp or the other.
The Wang family case is a recent case in which students are involved in protesting on behalf of a family who are being evicted from their home as their home is being destroyed to make way for a developer. Under the current Urban Renewal Act...
For instance, the value of property is currently estimated by real estate appraisers hired by the construction firm that initiates the renewal project; a property owner opposed to an urban renewal -project is given just one opportunity to object; and as long as two thirds of land or property owners in a certain area agree to the project, the properties of those who are opposed to it can be seized by force, regardless of their owners’ wishes.This is basically a giveaway to big land developers, who can bring in the police to enforce their theft of smallholders' property, and can themselves determine the value of the land. Scary.
A net-friend involved in the protests has a write-up on Facebook:
... below is a report I wrote up in April 2012 for the forced eviction case that took place in Shilin earlier this year after meeting with one of the lawyers. Unfortunately, the case is still ongoing as is the typical fare of controversial issues in Taiwan society. I hope this gives English readers an update on the background of what is going on and now I am far more interested in gathering the right forces and strategize for English writers to put together something cohesive for the international sphere to then push back on the local media and apply pressure on the local government to step in and take action. (click on READ MORE below to continue).
I will coordinate something soon when I have a clearer picture - there is also an event they will be hosting on the worldwide anti-eviction on September 29th so I welcome you to check it out. Simply take the MRT to Shilin Station, exit 1 and walk north under the rail for approximately 5 minutes till you hit Qian Street 前街.
Right now the government is pitting the Le Young Construction LTD against the Wang Family and their passionate group of supporters. Tenants who had agreed to the urban renewal projects are portraying themselves as victims but pitting their negative energy not on the perpetrators who sold them property that they did not own (Le Young) or the government who permitted this zoning to take place, but the Wang Family and their supporters. A Facebook page was created and daily lists very emotionally charged and misleading captions on pictures in personal smear campaigns against individual students. The most common claim is that the Wang Family at some point agreed to this urban renewal but no evidence was shown. Instead, what we can see is that the Wang Family has written on notices served that they do not wish to be part of the zoning.
Since the forcible eviction at the end of March, supporters have been going out on a daily basis, some staying overnight, to protect what is left of the Wang Family plot (the title of the land still is under their name), engaging in non-violent protests and using their bodies as shields to stop the construction excavator from destroying more of Wang's personal property. Clashes between construction workers (effective under Shu-Wei Construction under Le Young) and supporters, are on the rise as time drags on with no government intervention with sporadic violent episodes. The government has proven irresponsible and ineffective after being the custodian of this controversial act that has disrupted the lives of so many.
I stand neutral on emotions and base it only on facts and the long term dangers this proposes for any one of us in the country if a majority rule in a masqueraded democracy society can so easily evict us out of our civil liberties and property rights. If we take into consideration that 2% of Taiwan's population are comprised of the native indigenous, what is to stop a large scale "urban renewal" zone that negates their rights too, based on majority rule? This can happen in any neighborhood and community as I can easily include enough yay votes to drown out the nay votes of the minority.
Wenlin Yuan 文林苑 (Wenlin Garden also poised now as 文林「怨」)
Le Young Construction LTD 樂揚建設股份有限公司Shu-Wei Construction 舜韋營造股份有限公司
Urban Renewal Act 都市更新條例
Wang Family 王家
The Wang family was forcefully evicted and their home was demolished early morning on March 28th, 2012, with rights of the media and protestors at the site infringed upon in the process. Under Taiwan’s controversial and poorly written Urban Renewal Act, groups and businesses are able to request the government to forcefully evict and demolish a private citizen’s home.
At the end of this year the country is set to publish the first government-issued report in accordance with the two U.N. human rights conventions (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). Lawmakers in Taiwan must immediately review Urban Renewal Act as it sets an alarming precedent permitting fledgling democracies throughout Asia claiming adherence to human rights conventions, to instead violate these principles by legitimizing forced evictions and displacements of peoples. Over a hundred homes and thousands of Taiwanese residents are under the risk of being displaced right now.
In 2006, the Wang family was approached by private sector development company Le Young Construction LTD., to gauge interest for the company’s “WenLin Garden” project. From the start the Wang family rejected to have their private family home included in a redevelopment of the district and did not receive any further updates or news for approximately three years. In the meantime the developer had obtained a majority consensus vote from surrounding property owners and used this to call upon the government to forcibly remove the Wang family off their property.
On June 16th 2009, the family receiving an official notice was received from the city government, and it was only then they found out their private property had been voted to be razed and included in the renewal zone, despite potential fire hazards, without their consent. The executioner of the forced eviction is the Taipei City government under orders of Taipei City Mayor Hau Long Bin.
- The controversial Urban Renewal Act falls at odds with the ROC Constitution and international human rights covenants.
- The vote of the majority was used to violate the basic and inalienable rights of the minority and gave them no notice, no alternatives or consultation in the matter.
- Due process of law and consultation on the matter was denied to the Wang family, the decision for the proposed project that would affect their lives was already approved by the government by the time they were served with the official notice leaving no recourse.
- The developer did not approach the Wang family’s refusal to sell with a legal mediator or a third party and instead approached the government to instigate forced eviction of the Wang family.
- The Wang family was not approached with any other options but forced to give up their rights to their property and livelihood. No alternatives or effort was made to re-design the blueprint of the “WenLin Garden” project in which pre-sale of units were already made.
- The Wang family did not have access or knowledge of legal procedures involved with theUrban Renewal Act and none are currently in place to advise people of their rights.
On the day of demolition in March 28th, 2012, no advanced formal written eviction notice was ever served and the family could only rely on a slew of rumored possible eviction deadlines that started from March 19th 2012. The notices of March 27th at 8pm; March 28th at 2:00am, 4:00 am, 6:00 am, 7:00 am were only known to them via third party means such as leaks to the media.
Police forcibly entered into the private residence of the Wang family and proceeded to destroy personal effects of the Wang family along with those of the protestors’ inside. Protestors, a majority of them students, held a non-violent sit-in to protect the Wang home were subject to physical aggression by police equipped with riot gear; rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech were encroached and they were dragged from demolition site were forced onto buses, the buses then proceeded to random destinations far from Taipei city. After arriving at these destinations, protestors were not permitted to get off the bus, thus holding them. Powerful flashlights were used in broad daylight aimed the lenses of video cameras to obstruct the media’s ability to record news footage. This infringement of the media was a violation of press freedom in Taiwan.
Although this construction falls under the Urban Renewal Act of Taiwan, it is only in the interest of a private sector developer for a private construction project that does not benefit the public. Ignoring this incident in a democracy like Taiwan under the ROC government would set a precedent with a chilling effect on human rights throughout Asian democracies. Corporations using this act in order to seize private properties is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 17 which states that, ‘Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.’ and, ‘No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.’
Despite the current ongoing controversy of the Urban Renewal Act the ROC government has not made plans to put countless other urban renewal projects on hold. There are over a hundred cases in Taiwan pending and even more people facing displacement as a result.
- Provide the Wang family with compensation for emotional harm suffered and begin immediate reconstruction and rebuilding of their home.
- Immediately review Taiwan’s Urban Renewal Act and other land laws (i.e. Urban Land Consolidation) for breaches of human rights by a well-versed judge or judiciary panel in human rights and property law.
- Cease further urban redevelopment projects on controversial cases until they have been reviewed by independent third parties. Participants must be able to fully exercise their right to understanding their alternatives and to a public hearing to voice their grievances.
- Review all reported and recorded claims of the blatant violation of activist rights and media rights. Furthermore the government officials who sanctioned these actions and the police officers who executed the orders must attend a training program that educates them on freedom and rights that are permitted to citizens in a democracy under the ROC Constitution.
The development of the “WenLin Yuan” project begets its own controversy as the proposed 15 story-high building would constitute a fire hazard. The Urban Renewal Act in Article 6.1 “buildings that are deteriorated and not having a fireproof structure or the space between neighboring buildings is insufficient, and the building is hazardous to the public safety.” The R.O.C. FIRE SERVICE ACT stipulates that buildings over five stories tall can only be built on a street that is at least 4m in width to provide access to fire fighters, but the street in front of the planned construction of the “WenLin Yuan” site is less than 4m in width. This issue was not provided to the government when the entity requested approval of the project; the Construction and Planning Agency also failed to double-check that all measures were made before approving the project. Despite the government being reminded in February of 2012 again of this potential hazard that questioned the legitimacy and legality of the new building, no response was made and only action taken was the forced eviction on early morning March 28th.
No further defense has been made on how the “WenLin Garden” project truly constitutes development of space for a public good versus profit.
URBAN RENEWAL ACT:
Promulgated by Presidential Decree No. 8700232460 on November 11, 1998. The Urban Renewal Act that is at odds with Articles 10 and 15 of R.O.C Constitution and the adequate housing according to ICESCR no.11.
The key issues are caused by the flaws and problems in the Urban Renewal Act. The developer is given complete control defining the components of the project and their scope.
- Article 10 stipulates that a majority vote within the renewal zone, could legitimize the displacement of people from their personal property. This scope of the renewal zone can be drawn at the discretion of the developer which allows for gerrymandering.
- Article 11 the scope of the renewal zoning could be drawn by any developer at will without the actual notice of landowners affected.
- Article 22 permits the developers to obtain renewal permit without consensus from all residents or owners even though they may have refused to be part of the renewal zone.
-Article 25, clause 1 notes that if a certain proportion of the owners of private land or buildings in an area designated for urban renewal agree to the project, those who oppose it can be forced to join, thus depriving people of a constitutionally protected right.
- Article 36 allows the developers to resort to public authorities to evict the residents and demolish their houses.
Freedom of speech pronounced by the R.O.C. Constitution. As the 2011 J.Y. Interpretation No. 689 has pointed out, “Press freedom includes a free access of news, which not only indemnifies interviews by reporters from news agencies, but also guarantee those by citizen journalists for the purpose of providing the public with information of news value and of promoting public discussion and supervision on the government.
- Article 10: The people shall have freedom of residence and of change of residence.
- Article 11: The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing, and publication.
- Article 14: The people shall have freedom of assembly and of association.
- Article 15: The right to own property shall be guaranteed to the people.
THE INTERNATIONAL BILL OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The Taiwanese government has ratified International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)and passed the Enforcement Act of Two Covenants by its Legislative Yuan on March 31st, 2009. Thus, the Taiwan government has the obligation to respect and protect the right to adequate housing according to ICESCR Article 11.1 and Article 12 on right to freedom of movement and freedom to choose a place of residence. Furthermore: 15. Appropriate procedural protection and due process are essential aspects of all human rights butare especially pertinent in relation to a matter such as forced evictions which directly invokes a large number of the rights recognized in both the International Covenants on Human Rights. The Committee considers that the procedural protections which should be applied in relation to forcedevictions include: (a) an opportunity for genuine consultation with those affected; (b) adequate and reasonable notice for all affected persons prior to the scheduled date of eviction; (c) information on the proposed evictions, and, where applicable, on the alternative purpose for which the land or housing is to be used, to be made available in reasonable time to all those affected; (d) especially where groups of people are involved, government officials or their representatives to be present during an eviction; (e) all persons carrying out the eviction to be properly identified; (f) evictions not to take place in particularly bad weather or at night unless the affected persons consent otherwise; (g) provision of legal remedies; and (h) provision, where possible, of legal aid to persons who are in need of it to seek redress from the courts.
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