COA, Pingtung play ‘hot potato’ over farmhouse

By Lydia Lin

The China Post–The issue of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan’s farmhouse yesterday played out like a tennis match between the Council of Agriculture (COA) and Pingtung County Government, with both sides claiming that the ball of “final assessment” is in the other’s court. As of yesterday morning, the legality of what the media has dubbed Su’s “luxury farmhouse” — the tally of the construction area, the agricultural purposes of the structure and surrounding land and the property purchase process — is still up in the air.

With increasing pressure to renounce the house as his residence or tear it down altogether, Su said he will not make a move until the COA releases its inspection results.

However, the COA has been pushing the Pingtung County Government to make the final assessment, arguing that relevant land laws fall under local government jurisdiction.

In response, the county government stuck to its report released Sept. 30, which found the farmhouse area within the standard limits and not in violation of any other regulations. The report also addressed issues of purchasing farmland and the ambiguous requirements a “registered farmer” must meet.

Su’s Pingtung farmhouse has raised some logistical questions on agricultural land ownership and what it means to be a “farmhouse tenant.”

The Pingtung County Government, reasoning that the issue has catapulted into a tug-of-war between central and local governments, urged the COA to revise and clarify certain policies, including the definition of a “farmer” (農民) in the Agricultural Development Act (農業發展條例). Although the county government maintains Su did not violate any laws, it did not directly call his property “legal.” Su Receives Advice of Varying Quality The ongoing debacle of Su’s Pingtung farmhouse has caused internal strife within the DPP, as both party members and pan-green supporters mete out advice.

As the farmland property has relentlessly attracted negative press, Su’s supposed supporters have suggested everything from tearing down the house to “temporarily divorcing” his wife Hung Heng-chu, under whose name the mansion is registered. Wu Tsu-chia (吳子嘉), vice chairman of the Internet news website, “Formosa,” was the reported force behind the controversial request for Su to temporarily divorce (or separate from) his wife during the ongoing drama. The suggestion came from former DPP Legislator Kuo Cheng-liang (郭正亮), who was quoted in a Formosa article Monday urging Su to give up his residence either by demolition or for charitable causes, adding that the debacle has dangerously tainted DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s campaign and resulting in many sleepless nights for Wu.

The comments visibly incensed the DPP secretary-general, who in Nantou County yesterday, retorted, “Is Wu Tsu-chia the head honcho of the DPP? He is not even a party member.” Refusing to comment further on the issue, Su said he is leaving it in the hands of the law.

In Nantou with Su, DPP Chairwoman Tsai voiced her full support for her VP, stressing the need to do things in accordance with the law. If the cooperating government body believes improvements need to be made, we will make improvements, she said. If they believe the house should be torn down, the DPP will not hesitate, as long as it abides by the law.