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September 21, 2017

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Halt to forced eviction projects urged

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Demonstrators outside the Interior Ministry demanded Tuesday that the government suspend all development projects that depend on forced evictions.

Protesters who faced eviction stood outside the ministry, joined by members of the Taiwan Alliance of Anti-Forced Eviction (反迫遷陣線) and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (台灣人權促進會).

They condemned the government for pushing through development projects that they claimed enriched big corporations by violating individuals' right to housing.

Homeowners affected by forced evictions should be included in the planning stage of the government's development projects, they said.

They also said that laws governing urban renewal plans should be amended before the government proceeds with any current project.

Demonstrators asked the government to promise that all progress on the projects would be suspended until the requests were met.

At the protest, Director Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮) of Treasure Our Island Organization (惜根台灣協會) warned that the ruling party's justification of forced evictions went against international conventions, including two pacts signed by Taiwan.

For example, he said, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) included the right to adequate housing — a provision that prohibits forced evictions.

"When it comes to balancing the public interest with minority rights, the Tsai administration is doing exactly what it had so strongly denounced as an opposition party," Hsu said.

"Just as the former administration had, (administration officials) say that the eviction of residents and businesses against their will is an act 'in the public interest' and 'in accordance with the law.'

"But the truth is there is no justification for evicting people without their consent and without providing comprehensive measures to compensate them."

Hsu is a professor of National Chengchi University's Land Economics Department and a well-known land justice activist who rose to prominence during his campaign against forced evictions in Dapu in 2013 during the Ma administration.

Walk of the Drifters Warmup

Organizers said the protest was a warmup for the Walk of the Drifters, a mass demonstration slated for Sunday.

Participants plan to march from the Presidential Office to President Tsai Ing-wen's private residence.

Taiwan has seen a wave of demonstrations since Tsai's inauguration on May 20.

Critics say the Demoncratic Progressive Party built its platform on condemning the former administration's "dictatorial" approach to development projects yet has now adopted the same methods.

Instead of calling for an immediate end to forced evictions, local governments have provided various justifications for proceeding with urban renewal plans and large-scale development projects like infrastructure, dams and roads, according to opponents.

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