A Dapu farmer pleading with the police to save his crops and land (June 28th, 2010).
Soon after that summer, I decided to apply for a visiting professor position with a Taiwanese university, so I can have an extended stay in Taiwan to conduct more research on Taiwan's democratic development and to further understand Taiwan.
Three Years Ago
|Poster of Commissioner Liu |
as a vampire
The imagines of the excavators turning over rice paddies of the farmers who refused to surrender their land, two weeks prior to harvest, and the heavy police presence at the scene preventing the farmers, most elderly, from going in their farm to stop the excavators, shocked the nation.
Dapu residents and their supporters held demonstrations in front of the Presidential Office. The demonstrations drew large crowds, mostly young people, students and academics. They took over the Ketagalan Boulevard, held all-night vigils, planted crops on the boulevard, demanding the government to halt demolition and return the farmland to the farmers.
Then-Premier Wu Den-yih, now Vice President, held a meeting between government officials, the Dapu residents and their supporters, where he promised the residents can keep their land. An official document from the Executive Yuan showed Wu, who presided the meeting, concluded that the farmers' homes and land would be kept as they were (原地保留).
|Official document from Executive Yuan stating the residents were allowed|
to keep their houses and land as they were.
Two weeks ago, the Miaoli County Government delivered a renewed demolition orders to the remaining households in Dapu Village. The order set July 5th as the deadline for self-demolition and eviction. If the residents failed to do so by July 5th, the government will forcibly demolish the houses to acquire the land. The four families named in the demolition order are still involved in administrative suits against the county government. Those lawsuits have yet to be resolved, but the county government made the decision to issue the demolition order anyway.
On July 2nd, the Dapu residents and their supporters came to the Executive Yuan to stage yet another demonstration, pleading with the current Premier, Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to keep the former premier's promise and to step in to halt demolition. The demonstrated lasted for three years, as protesters staged a sit-in named, "July 5th, Save Dapu (七月五, 救大埔)". There were many students and professors from the country's top universities participating in the protest.
I went everyday to the three-day protest. The temperature in Taipei never went below 35℃ (95℉) with the sun scorching above us. Sweat kept going into my eyes, making it very difficult to take photographs. Fortunately, I brought a towel with me, so I was able to wipe away the sweat on my face and on my camera.
Just as everyone was melting under the sun after the press conference on the first day (July 2nd), a truck pulled up with chairs and tents. The truck driver said that an individual who wishes to remain anonymous had rented the tents and chairs for the demonstrators, so they wouldn't burn or suffer from heat stroke under the sun.
I met Mr. and Mrs. Chang (張森文, 彭秀春/Peng Hsiu-chun) of the Chang Pharmacy (張藥房), the deceased Mrs. Chu's son, Chu Ping-kun (朱炳坤) and many other demonstrators from Miaoli. Mr. and Mrs. Chang are two of the kindest and gentle people I've met. Both are soft-spoken with Mrs. Chang or Big Sister Peng (彭大姐) as everyone calls her, constantly asking the demonstrators to hydrate themselves and offering her famous sweet green bean soup (綠豆湯). The Changs worked to purchase the land, where they built their home and pharmacy for the past three decades. Together, they raised three children in that house.
Mr. Chang often tries to put on a smile for us; however, it was not difficult to feel his despair, stress and concern. He told us that he only has 6 ping of his home left, after the government took the other 14 ping to make way for a road. If the Miaoli Government takes what it wants this time, the Changs would only be left with 0.6 ping of their home, about the size of half a bed.
What Mr. Chang said most often to us in the past three days was, "I am a law abiding citizen. I am also a citizen of this country. I work hard, and I never did anything wrong. Why are you doing this to me? What have I done wrong? Where are we going to go if you take my land and my house?"
|Mrs. Chang pleading with the government for mercy|
At the press conference on the third morning, Mrs. Chang pleaded with the media to help her deliver her message to the power that be. She said she was afraid that her husband wouldn't last long if their house is taken away. She also begged the government to spare them.
Most people were crying, as they listened to Mrs. Chang, and I also observed members of the press wiping their tears as well.
After the press conference, without warning, the young protesters started climbing over the gate of the Executive Yuan while chanting "Keep the promise! Preserve the homes! (信守承諾, 原屋保留!). I saw quite a few students I know jumping inside the gate and started running toward the Executive Yuan building. All of them were caught by the police before they reached the building and pushed to the ground. Yet, they continued chatting the slogan.
The clash and the uphill battle continues
After the third day of protest, the government suddenly announced it will halt demolition on July 5th. The news reported it was Vice President Wu Den-yih who placed a call to County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung to not demolish the homes on July 5th and to have yet another negotiation meeting to resolve the issue.
Vice President Wu was quickly called out on his lies, again. The official demolition order never identifies July 5th as the day of demolition. It was merely the deadline for the families to demolish their homes on their home. The county government is reserving the rights to demolish those homes at any time after July 5th. The county government also reserved the right to the roads in front of the residents for the next two weeks to prevent further demonstration.
The Miaoli residents and their supporters are heading back to Miaoli today for an explanation tour of the area to be demolished and to further protest the central and country government's behavior.
The last I heard, Mr. Chang is now back home and is responsive.
The most hypocritical aspect about these forced demolitions and the responsible government officials is that they will never teach by setting example. For instance, County Commissioner Liu's family homes in Houlong Township of Miaoli County are sitting in the area designated for the Miaoli High Speed Rail Station. He requested for his family homes to be preserved and was granted permission to keep his own homes. In other words, the HSR station will have to curve around his homes when constructed. How about sacrificing your homes for the sake of progress and modernity, Mr. Liu?
The latest news this morning from Dapu is County Commissioner Liu has issued yet another official demolition order, and this time, to destroy not four but five of the resident's homes, adding Mr. Chu's convenience store to the list. The location of the store is where Mrs. Chu committed suicide three years ago.
I am not a religious person; however, I do believe there is a special place in the 18-level of hell for people like this.
(All photograph by author)
For additional reading of the Dapu case:
|Professor Tsai of Shih-Hsin University becoming very emotion over |
the government's insistence to demolish the Dapu resident's homes
|Student leader and Professor Liao of National Taipei University weeping while watching Mr. Chang.|
|Mrs Chang (彭大姐)|
|Dapu resident, Mr. Ko and supporters clashing with the police|
|Students in the courtyard of Executive Yuan after climbing over the fence|
|Student caught by the police|
|Student caught by the police|