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August 21, 2017

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Hundreds protest forced evictions in Kaohsiung

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Social activists and local residents subject to expropriation surrounded Kaohsiung City Council on Monday demanding land justice and housing rights.

More than 200 demonstrators from approximately 20 self-help civic groups protested outside the Kaohsiung City Council building on Monday morning, calling for a face-to-face meeting with Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu.

Demonstrators accused the city government of being reckless and dictatorial in their execution of urban renewal and infrastructure construction projects.

They invited Chen to a public debate over recent disputed land expropriation projects.

"She (Chen) refuses to sit down and speak with us altogether, and then she goes tearing down houses one by one, threatening individuals so as to achieve what they want," demonstrators said.

Meanwhile, Chen was inside the council building as councilors bombarded her with questions over land expropriation and urban renewal matters.

Responding to demonstrators, Chen said she would not attend any sort of public debate, because the city government is "acting in accordance with the law," and that "all policies have been made in the interest of the majority."

She insisted that the development projects be completed as planned and that she "will bear the attacks or blame."

Kuomintang Councilor Huang Shao-ting said that the KMT supports urban renewal; however, the city government's manner of execution constitutes an abuse of procedural justice.

"You don't demolish households within one month after the announcement," he said.

"Two years ago, you (Chen) lambasted the former administration for forced evictions. And now you're doing the same thing. How are you qualified as the people's mayor?" Huang asked.

On behalf of the residents, KMT councilor Tseng Chun-chieh handed in a petition letter to Chen during the meeting.

Opposite Public Opinions

Tensions escalated at the protest when another two dozen locals arrived at the scene to lend support to the city government's development projects.

Those in support of the city government encouraged accelerated demolishment of the remaining homes located on land designated for urban renewal or infrastructure projects.

The two parties shouted at each other with vicious language and were separated by police officers to avoid further violence.

A series of protests against land expropriation and forced evictions have broken out across the country since the Tsai administration took office in May.

One of the largest demonstration took place in Taipei in September, as residents from around the country gathered in front of the presidential office to express their concerns, drawing national attention to the matter.

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