The reason the corruption case involving former Taoyuan County deputy commissioner Yeh Shih-wen (葉世文) has caused such alarm is that Yeh was also for a long period in charge of the Construction and Planning Administration. In this position, he passed countless urban planning and renewal projects, as well as land zoning changes for non-urban areas, many of which would have involved forced land expropriation.
Past land expropriation appeals have been mere formalities, mostly for show, so if the Urban Planning Commission has passed a motion, the subsequent land expropriation is practically guaranteed. A case in point is the verdict handed down by the Greater Taichung High Administrative Court on the Dapu Borough (大埔) demolitions in Miaoli County, the appeals for which were cursory at best, taking on average little more than five minutes each to go through.
It has been many years since martial law was lifted, yet the government has not changed in terms of its excessive use of land expropriation. If anything, things have become worse in the past few years. For example, in the period up until late December 2012, the government completed the expropriation of 95 zones, involving about 7,672 hectares.
Since then, zone expropriations have either already been completed or are planned for a considerable amount of land. This includes 1,168 hectares for the Danhai New Town phase-two project, 126 hectares for Taipei Harbor Bali District (八里), 104 hectares in Fuzhou in Banciao District (板橋) and 236 hectares for Station A7 in Linkou District (林口), all in New Taipei City; 3,316 hectares for the “aerotropolis” in Taoyuan County, including 500 hectares to build an overhead track in the county’s Jhongli City; 447 hectares for the Puyu project and 440 hectares in Erchong Pu, both in Hsinchu County; 154 hectares in Dapu; 110 hectares in Cianjhu Borough (前竹), 30 hectares in Jioude Village’s Wurih Township (烏日), 196 hectares in Taiping District (太平) and 251 hectares for the Shueinan Airport, all in Greater Taichung; 184 hectares for the special district for Taiwan High Speed Rail’s Changhua Station in Tianjhong Township (田中) in Changhua County; 83 hectares for the Yongkang Artillery School in Greater Tainan; and 105 hectares in Yilan County’s Wushi Harbor.
The above list is not exhaustive, it includes just those of which I am aware and amounts to 7,450 hectares of expropriated zones. The land taken in that short period is almost equal to the total of all the expropriations that preceded them. Neither does it include the equally shocking scale, which has not been calculated, of other projects, such as the third and fourth phases of the Central Taiwan Science Park expansion project, the relocation underground and to the east of a segment of railway tracks in Greater Tainan and the Changnan Industrial Park near Siluo Bridge. It comes as no surprise that many people have found themselves the victims of forced land expropriation on more than one occasion.
The above cases were all decided in the urban planning preparatory stages, after which these projects quickly morph into orgies of deal-making and bribe-taking between politics and business, various factions and individual government officials. In these circumstances, how can land expropriation be conducted in a legitimate manner?
Government officials are wining and dining and lining their own pockets and it is all done at the expense of the public. The government must put all land expropriation plans on hold and promptly set up a democratic procedure by which citizens can participate in urban planning and land expropriation cases.
Hsu Shih-jung is a professor in National Chengchi University’s land economics department.
Translated by Paul Cooper