A lot has happened in the Dapu Village of Miaoli County in between and since the demonstration last weekend. Student supporters formed watch groups to guard the homes of the residents. Someone from the watch group always stays awake and would notify the others if he sees demolition crew or notice any police presence. Patrollers in cars or on mopeds are also monitoring the surrounding area for suspicious activities. That's how things stand for now in Dapu.
Here are some notes on what has been happening in the past week. It is by no means everything that happens, as the situation is complicated and ever-changing.
On July 4th, soon after the demonstration that led to clash between the students and the police, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) was said to place a call to Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) and asked him to suspend demolition of the four families' homes, pending yet another government official meeting. Wu then told the media that he has never broken any promises, and the homes would not be demolished on July 5th. The media was quick to report Wu's statement as a "dramatic turning point" for the Dapu residents.
Wu's statement did nothing to relinquish the Dapu residents' anguish. The student advocates quickly pointed out that the official document issued by the Miaoli county government never specified any date for demolition. The July 5th deadline was only for the residents to demolish their homes on their own. If the residents failed to do so, the county government would the demolish their homes by force. The county government is also charging the residents a demolition fee. For example, the county government requested the Changs to pay NT$242,000 by September 15th, for the government to tear down their shop and home for the past three decades.
"July 5th, Save Dapu" - "七月五, 救大埔"
|Crowd in front of the Chang Pharmacy|
Individuals came from as far as Kaohsiung and Taitung to lend their support to the Dapu residents. Mr. Chang of the Chang Pharmacy (張藥房) and his son broke down in tears several times during the demonstration.
On that same day, Mr. Chu Bing-kun (朱炳坤) received another official notice of demolition from the county government. This time, the demolition notice included the small convenience store his mother committed suicide in three years ago. Upon learning the government's attempt to demolish the store, Mr. Chu became extremely emotional and swore he would fight to the end to protect his property.
(Photo from PTS)
After a buddhist prayer to the gods, the protesters moved to County Commissioner Liu's home in Houlong Township. Liu's home is located in the area designated for the Miaoli High-speed Rail Station. The County Commissioner applied for permission for his own home not to be demolish under the reason that his home is an residential artifact (古蹟建築) and was granted permission.
In another video, County Commissioner Liu was seen telling another legislator not to worry, because he would "give birth to a lot more land" (for the county to sell to repay the debt).
By the evening of July 5th, the Dapu residents and their supporters learned the central government would not step in to prevent the county commissioner from demolishing the residents' homes. Vice President Wu told County Commissioner Liu to "handle the the case properly, since the county government is in charge of the project". Wu also insisted that the government did not overturn the decision to preserve the four homes and said he expected the county government to seek consensus with the residents involved.
Then, Executive Yuan's spokesperson Cheng Yi-wun (鄭麗文) said in a nonchalant manner at the EY's press conference that "there was no decision whatsoever at the meeting whether the four homes should remain or be destroyed". (The audio of the press conference, where the spokeswoman was weirdly bubbly and chuckled from time to time can be found here).
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), who has been somewhat silent on the issue, now also said, the matter is at the discretion of the local government. The Executive Yuan, said Jiang, will give the county government a free hand to carry out the demolition.
With permission from the central government, county commissioner Liu now says he is determined to demolish those homes and acquire the land. Liu also taunted the residents by saying, "The Miaoli people couldn't stand by and watch those who acted so pitiful and crying on TV to garner sympathy and demonize the county government. Regardless, I will demolish those houses".
|Attendees of press conference|
chanted slogan in support of the commissioner
Some of the press conference attendee wore the KMT "battle" vest, and some wore the same t-shirts. Most were middle aged and older.
One should be reminded that during Commissioner Liu's reign, he acquired and developed more than 30 plots of land for industrial and factory use; however, most remained unused and unoccupied, yet, he continues to acquire more land from the residents.
During the press conference on several occasion, the Miaoli County Council speaker, Yu Chung-tien (游忠鈿), led the chant, "Go Commissioner Liu! (縣長加油!)" to encourage the county commissioner. Yu also said it is the county council's job to mobilize the people who are supportive of demolition, and there it doesn't make sense for the government to not demolish those homes simply because those people protested. Both Yu and the head of the Chunan residents representative council, Lin Shu-wen (林樹文) said they plan to bring 50 busloads of people to Taipei for a counter-demostration. Lin said the reason he decided to speak up is because Taiwan has become too democratic but the voice of the majority who supported the demolition remained unheard.
It seems to me that Speaker Yu, Head Council Lin and County Commissioner Liu unsurprisingly lack the basic understanding of democracy and the rights of individual in a democracy. Just because one is able to mobilize more people to show up at a press conference to agree to demolish four families homes doesn't lend the decision any legitimacy. In today's newspaper ad, the Miaoli government also contends that the Changs have a house elsewhere, so they shouldn't object the demolition of their current home. The issue here isn't whether the Changs have another home or another ten homes. If the Changs do not wish to sell the government their home at the price determined by the government, they don't have to, as the land and house were bought by the money they earned on their own from their pharmacy. To follow Liu's logic, anyone in this society can start a survey, in the name of public interest, to take votes from individuals to decide, say, Terry Gou of Foxconn give up half of his money to be distributed among individuals living below the poverty line.
Even if the Changs home will indeed block traffic in the future, the government should offer them reasonable compensation, so the Chang and start their lives elsewhere. As of now, the law doesn't require the government to offer market price when it acquires a citizen's property. There many other problems with Liu's "public interest" theory. I am only mentioning a few.
|Mr. Lin's land development company|
Photo by 陳權欣
|Photo from PTS|
All this reminds me of the wild west in American's history, where the sheriff and his cohorts rule the town and dominated the town's resources and funds. Anyone who dares to oppose them would inadvertently suffer dire consequences.
The battle rages on
|The "Dapu Patrollers"|
As we speak, students and supporters of Dapu are holding vigils outside of the residents homes. They vow to continue guarding the houses until they couldn't anymore. President Ma Ying-jeou finally commented today that he also held the same position as Wu and Jiang, that the local government is responsible in settling the issue.
I am wondering, though, with permission from the President, Vice President and the Premier, why doesn't Commissioner Liu just go ahead and forcibly demolish the homes as he promised? Why have the 18-wheeler do a test turn? And why have the 1000-persons "press conference"? Why the survey (with horribly formulated questions)? And why spent millions of dollars placing ads in newspapers?
With Typhoon Soulik approaching, it is unlikely the demolition will happen this week. Will keep a close eye on what happens next week.
|Survey from Miaoli County government to poll the residents|
on whether they agree with forced demolition in the name of public interest
|The recipient should return the survey three days after receiving it|
|Mr. Chang on the first day of protest in front of the Executive Yuan (July 2nd)|
|Mr. Chang now.|
|Ads to pre-sell land in the surrounding area of the High Speed Rail station|