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May 25, 2017

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Villagers rise up in Taipei in wake of Dapu home razing

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Dapu Village protesters and their supporters continued to protest on Taipei's Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday, demanding an apology and compensation from the government over last Thursday's sudden demolition of their Miaoli County homes.

Displaying dirt-stained photos, shredded shirts and dented pots and pans that were dug out from the rubble of their torn-down houses, participants slammed the government for what they called cruel and tyrannical behavior.

Protester Peng Siou-chun (彭秀春) said in a cracked voice: "I have been paying taxes all my life. Why would the government treat me like this? Everything I owned has been destroyed."

Miaoli County demolished houses last Thursday in Dapu Village to proceed with an urban development plan, while supporters of the homeowners protested in front of the Presidential Office.

Miaoli County Magistrate Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) had used the opportunity when protesters were away from their houses to raze the homes.

"The local government chose that day to start demolition work on the four houses because the pressure from the protesters had abated due to their presence in the capital," Liu said.

A group of six students was at the site that day, according to Taiwan Rural Front (TRF, 台灣農村陣線) representative Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧).

Angered at the central government for going back on their word that the houses would remain untouched, protesters shouted their four demands — that the government apologize and offer compensation for their losses, return the land to its rightful owners, investigate the land scheme and revise the Land Act.

Although the government had offered compensation in accordance with land expropriation procedures, the household members never took the money, according to Tsai.

"What's worse, the government requested the Chang household pay moving fees because the government 'helped' demolish the houses. They charged NT$242,000, which is the exact amount the government previously offered to compensate the household," she said.

"A NT$242,000 moving fee? I have never heard of such a thing," said one protester.

Tsing Hua University professor Peng Ming-hui (彭明輝) also arrived at the protest, rejecting government statements that the land was intended for a science park project.

"These households were not located where the science park is to be built; only around the park. Their land is intended to be used to build apartments so land prices increase in the future under heavy speculation. There is absolutely no need or justification to develop this land, because Taiwan is already saturated with science parks," he said.

The government had also claimed that of the 24 households that would be demolished, 20 of them had already reached an agreement with the government.

"That's not true. Because those 20 households were actually untouched," Tsai said.

Demonstrators later marched to the Ministry of Health and Welfare where President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah were meeting. There they engaged in a clashes with the police.

Tsai said that if neither the Cabinet nor the local government give a satisfying response to the protesters, they will initiate a "demolition of the government."

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