Interior Ministry on standby as expropriation protests continue


TAIPEI — The interior minister canceled his itinerary for Monday to focus on formulating an official response to ongoing protests after rural houses were forcibly demolished for industrial development.

A few hundred protestors surrounded the ministry building in Taipei after attending a rally on Sunday night, painting graffiti on the ground and putting stickers on the building entrance to vent their anger over the July demolition of four houses in Miaoli County’s Dapu Village by county government to make way for a science park project.

They have issued four demands — a government apology over the forced demolitions, a return of the requisitioned land to its owners, an investigation into possible misconduct, and an amendment to the law that governs industrial development on farmland.

Minister Lee Hong-yuan spent the day in the office discussing the demands with relevant officials, a Ministry of the Interior spokesman said Monday afternoon.

The angry protestors were still blocking the two main gateways to the building in the afternoon, displaying slogans including one saying: “They tore down Dapu today; let’s tear down the government tomorrow.”

Since Monday morning, police had twice asked protestors to disperse as they had not asked for a permit to demonstrate but no actions were taken to remove them, according to Fang Yang-ning, head of the Taipei City Police Department’s Zhongzheng First Precinct.

The protesters have broken the law by making it difficult for public servants to go to work in the building, Fang said.

No confrontations had been reported between police officers and protestors as of late Monday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Vice Minister of the Interior Hsiao Chia-chi made an attempt to communicate with protestors but was turned away by the crowd, which insisted on talking directly to Minister Lee.

The ministry issued a statement on Sunday, in which it defended the actions taken by the Miaoli County government as “in the public interest” and in line with relevant laws. The project, which is part of an expansion for the Hsinchu Science Park, is also important to the development of the Dapu area, it said.

Ninety-eight percent of the more than 900 landowners accepted the offer of land in return for their expropriated properties, while 20 of the 24 remaining owners also accepted the deal under special terms, it said.

Leaving only the properties of the four hold-out families intact would cause problems in regard to urban planning, traffic safety and the principle of fair treatment, it said.

The demolition was carried out in line with relevant laws on July 18, 13 days after the deadline given to the four families to vacate the designated areas, the statement said.

The county government removed all or parts of the four families’ properties when they were away attending protests in Taipei. The homeowners returned later in the evening to find their houses reduced to rubble.

Miaoli County Magistrate Liu Cheng-hung has been under fire since then, with several protests being held in both Miaoli and Taipei.