Protesters push for better protection of land rights

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — More than 10,000 protesters opposing the dismantling of houses at Dapu Village in Miaoli County staged another demonstration in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei last night.

The protestors demanded amendments to the Land Expropriation Act to ensure justice and better protection of farmers’ rights. In response, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement stressing that the latest amendment to the act last year already included the opinions of civic groups to adequately safeguard the rights and benefits of affected landowners.

Organizers of the rally named the gathering “818: Take Back the State, Demolish the Government.” The rally marked a month since bulldozers razed the houses of four farming families on July 18. In addition to farmers, other people like scholars, students, and members of some civic organizations also took part in the protest held on Ketagalan Boulevard. The event proceeded in a generally peaceful and orderly fashion as organizers emphasized a non-violent method.

Speakers, including scholars, farmers and activists stressed the people’s property rights and the vital function of farmland and food. Aside from calling for a new amendment to the land acquisition regulations in the upcoming legislative session, the demonstrators also asked for the return of farmland to the Dapu families, a government apology for demolishing houses, and a thorough investigation into the misconduct of the Miaoli County Government.

The rally ended at around 10 p.m. Some of the protesters moved to the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) nearby and staged an ad hoc sit-in. It was a deviation of an earlier plan to target the Executive Yuan building, which is also in the area.

The MOI released a public statement earlier in the evening to explain that the Land Expropriation Act is not a bad law aiming to infringe on people’s rights. It explained that the acquisition of land at Dapu is necessary and conforms to public interest relating to the overall development in the region as part of the Miaoli County Government’s plan to expand Chunan Park.

The MOI said up to 98 percent of the more than 900 landowners in the region had agreed to the project and accepted financial compensation. Only 24 affected families had asked to keep their farmland and housing units. Following the coordination of the Miaoli County Government, 20 families agreed to maintain their houses and accept the allocations of new land to continue their farming operations.

But only four families were affected by factors related to transportation safety and a comprehensive urban planning program following intensive reviews and evaluations by the Miaoli government and the two levels of urban planning committees at the MOI, the ministry said.