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Battle to save homes rages on in Kaohsiung

Residents who live at the site of a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in the center of Kaohsiung City’s commercial area threatened to go on hunger strike in front of Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu’s residence, after their homes were torn down early Thursday morning.

According to one resident, identified only by the surname Hsuei, the city government’s agricultural bureau deployed four excavators to her home at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Thursday and had demolished six homes in the area by 7:20 a.m.

Later on Thursday, Hsuei threw eggs and paper money for the deceased at Chen’s residence to protest what she called an “autocracy” against the people.

Paper money for the deceased is believe to bring bad luck.

“Does she thinks she is the queen?” Hsuei said, breaking down in tears. “I have a job because I have family to look after — I cannot guard my house to keep her (Chen) from coming in and bringing it down. But she still managed to do so while I was asleep.”

Hsuei was later detained by the police on grounds of public assault.

A civic group established by local residents and supporters to defend their homes from land expropriation denounced the incident on Thursday.

Wu Fu-hsiung, the group’s chairman, arrived in Taipei later Thursday to protest at President Tsai Ing-wen’s residence against the forced evictions in Kaohsiung.

‘Public infrastructuret wait’

City government officials said that the date of the demolition was announced several days ago and that excavators were on site by last week.

The area near the wholesale market is the site of one of many disputed land expropriation cases in Kaohsiung, which has seen a wave of protests in recent months.

Demonstrators have protested by chaining themselves to gas barrels, lying in coffins and guarding the entrance to the residential area at the market.

“The city government continues to receive petition letters from local residents; however, that does not affect today’s plan to demolish the households,” officials said.

“The bureau will continue to coordinate with residents on their rights to housing, but public infrastructure cannot wait.”

The city government plans to construct drainage systems at the location of the wholesale market and to build a new fruit and vegetable supermarket.

The city government said that most households have agreed to move, signed agreements with the city government and accepted financial compensation from the government.

The government has offered former residents temporary housing for 27 years, according to the agriculture bureau.

“The compensation package has been raised from NT$1.5 million to NT$2.5 million,” officials from the city government said.