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International Solidarity Appeal from Taiwan Rural Front : Stop Land Grabbing and End Police Violence in Taiwan

International Solidarity Appeal from Taiwan Rural Front : Stop Land Grabbing and End Police Violence in Taiwan

The power of eminent domain has been routinely abused in Taiwan for the sake of land speculation. The case of the Dapu Village is the most appalling case of such state-sanctioned robbery. On 9th June 2010, excavators bulldozed and destroyed the Dapu villagers’ crop two weeks before harvest in a dawn raid.

On 18th July 2013, hundreds of police officers returned and razed the residents’ homes, while the house owners were away pleading with the central government to stop demolition as the expropriation decision is still contested in court. The thuggish behavior of the police and government triggered spontaneous civil disobedience protests by ordinary citizens across Taiwan. The police responded with undue violence and repression. Many people were detained and prosecuted, and many injured. (Standing on the Side of the Egg – Forced Demolition of Dapu homes a government sanctioned robbery?, Things coming apart, the Dapu outrage as a catalyst?)

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Dr. Shih-Jung Hsu, the chairman of Taiwan Rural Front was arrested by police. Photo credit J Michael Cole. Used by permission

Massive international outrage from supporters like you can help to stop state land grabbing and police violence in Taiwan. Please send an urgent message to President Ma and Taiwan government, demanding that the basic rights of livelihood of the Dapu homeowners are restored. People’s basic right to live a just and peaceful life on their own land should be protected in the face of all forms of development. President Ma must also ensure the People’s right to freedom of expression and assembly by ending the use of excessive force against peaceful protestors.

Here is what you can do:

1. Put social media to work:
Please use social media including twitter and facebook to circulate the below suggested messages, tagging @twruralfront for Taiwan Rural Front:

  • #Dapu Police use of force against anti-land grabbing protestors is excessive, unacceptable & breaks international HR standards @twruralfront
  • #Dapu Uso excesivo de fuerza policial contra manifestantes anti-especulación inaceptable, viola estándares internacionales DDHH @twruralfron
  • #Dapu Taiwan authorities must immediately stop police violence against peaceful anti-land grabbing protestors @twruralfront

Please circulate posts from our fb (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Taiwan-Rural-Front/148058535398289) and write your comment to raise awareness

2. Voice your concern directly to the Taiwan government by writing to Presient Ma and the ROC Embassies and Missions in your countries (addresses and details of which can be found in this link:

http://www.boca.gov.tw/lp.asp?ctNode=801&CtUnit=72&BaseDSD=18&mp=2

In Taiwan, write to:
President Ma
The Presidential Office
No 122, sec 1, Chongqing South Road,
Taipei 10048, TAIWAN

In the United States, write to:
Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office
4201 Wisconsin Ave.,
N.W. Washington
DC 20016-2137

What to include in your letter:

  • Call on the Taiwan authorities to stop land grabbing immediately. The current mode of development, which strips people from their rights to property, subsistence and a healthy environment, is a regressive one. Such mode of national development cannot be tolerated anymore. Land, water, and other natural resources are not just materials for production but essential to common people. People’s basic right to live a just and peaceful life on their own land should be protected in the face of all forms of development.
  • Urge the Taiwan authorities to revise its Land Expropriation Act and stop all expropriation before the revision is done. Land expropriation in Taiwan now goes against the basic rights of people’s livelihood. Land expropriation is a very serious state measure because of the grave moral, political, and material consequences involved. It should not and cannot be abused. The initiation of land expropriation must be predicated on the public interest, and the fulfillment of the public interest requires the most stringent administrative procedures with full participation of local residents to reach the widest possible consensus.
  • State that excessive force against peaceful protestors, as has been evident in the police response to these protests, breaches international human rights standards and must be stopped. Remind the authorities that any decision to disperse an assembly should be taken only as a last resort and in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality. International standards require that in dispersing assemblies, police must avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, must restrict any such force to the minimum necessary.
  • Urge the Taiwan authorities to ensure protestors’ rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. The authorities should carry out a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of excessive and unnecessary use of force, and ensure that any law enforcement officials responsible for arbitrary or abusive use of force to be prosecuted.

Please send us any responses you receive.

3. Stay informed.  This is an on-going process and seems likely to intensify.
We need your help to keep the world’s attention on these events.
We need your voices to put pressure on the Taiwan government to end land grabbing and excessive police action!

Photos of the events in Taiwan can be viewed here.

Addendum 1

The Dapu Expropriation Case: What Happened?

The controversy over Dapu expropriation dates back more than three years. The Miaoli county government has designated an area in Dapu Village for the construction of an industrial complex, which requires the expropriation of 156-hectares of land belonging to local residents. However, only 28 hectares of the expropriated lands are for industrial use, and most of the remaining area is for residential use. The development has thus been criticized as a “fake development” for the sake of land speculation, and its public interest value and necessity are widely doubted. The suicide of one elderly villager woman in June 2010 and the anger of Taiwanese people resulted from the Miaoli county government’s decision to order the excavators to destroy rice paddies that were about to be harvested. In July 2010, tens of thousands of farmers and citizens held all-night vigils and demonstrations in front of the Presidential Office, forcing the Executive Yuan to promise that the lands and homes would be kept by the residents as they were. Thus, the government halted a number of land expropriations and amended the Land Expropriation Act.

Nevertheless, in June 2013, the Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung broke this promise and delivered a renewed demolition orders to the remaining households in Dapu Village. This order would forcibly demolish their houses to acquire the land. The Executive Yuan, which made this promise has withdrawn its responsibility as the supreme executive organization in Taiwan, and consequently the local government insisted on the forced demolition. Even though the Supreme Administrative Court resolved that the Dapu case had a number of legal flaws, the central and local governments remain in their neglect. This has led to widespread anger and dangerously undermined democratic and legislative values.

Professor Shih-Jung Hsu from the Department of Land Economics at the National Chengchi University and leader of Taiwan Rural Front indicates that the spirit of democracy is based on the sufficient participation of the people to protect their equal rights. In the Dapu case, administrative power is not subject to effective legal restraint and lacks popular participation necessary to develop social consensus. Also, the opposition to the legislation and civil will during the administrative process has severely challenged the basic principles of a democratic society. Under the slogan of “development”, the government deprives people of basic living rights; their natural rights have been sacrificed for the economic benefits of a small group of people. In fact, the benefits of social development should be equally shared by all people. Taiwan’s government is undermining the rights of disadvantaged groups. This administrative execution has lost legitimacy and ended in pure violence.

Taiwan Rural Front holds that the Dapu case constitutes persecution of human rights carried out by the state. People must stand up and raise their conscience to defend democracy. Protecting Dapu is not only about protecting the rights of a few individuals, but also about striving for civil rights and democracy.

Our four demands to “Ma-Wu-Jian-Liu”, four key players behind the Dapu case from the Ma administration:

  1. Apologize and compensate for the forced demolition.
  2. Return the four properties to Dapu villagers and restore their normal life.
  3. A thorough investigation of all illegal activities by Miaoli County Mayer Liu Cheng-hung during his tenure.
  4. Revise Land Expropriation Act immediately, and halt all expropriation processes before the amendment is done.

Addendum 2

Taiwan Rural Front: Who We Are

Taiwan Rural Front (TRF) is a social movement organization formed by farmers and other citizens committed to social justice and ecological sustainability in Taiwan and across the region. It emerged in 2008 as a spontaneous civil alliance in opposition to the ill-conceived “Rural Revitalization Act,” which sought to commodify farmland and rural livelihood in the name of rural development. The passing of the first reading of the Act in spring 2008 prompted thousands of Taiwanese from all walks of life – including farmers, activists, writers, artists, journalists, academics, engineers, lawyers, and students — to join in a common struggle against short-sighted rural development schemes. Although the Act was eventually ratified in 2011, the TRF has thrived and continues to fight for rural sustainability through legislative lobbying, media campaigning, and grassroots mobilization.

What We Fight For: Small-scale Farming, Sustainable Agriculture, & Food Sovereignty

The agriculture sector in Taiwan has been subject to U.S. political pressures in the name of trade liberalization since the 1980s. Over the years, these interventions have turned Taiwan from a food self-sufficient nation into a highly dependent one. In 2007, the food self-sufficiency rate reached an all-time-low of 30.6%. However, under the dual pressures of peak oil and global warming, the current oil-based agribusiness regime is bound to fail, forcing countries all over the world to reformulate their food and agriculture policies. The TRF strongly opposes further agricultural trade liberalization; instead, it advocates policies that will help Taiwan rebuild a localized food system and regain food sovereignty. We believe that small-scale farming, which is known to be more ecologically adaptive, more environmentally sustainable, more community-oriented, and a reservoir of local knowledge, will become the backbone of a new agriculture and of a new society in which rural and urban livelihoods will sustain each other and flourish.