March 29, the Youth Day of the Republic of China, used to be a national holiday to commemorate the seventy-two young martyrs who staged and were killed in an armed uprising against the corrupted Qing government in Quangzhou in 1911. On this particular day one hundred and one years later, a number of young college students gathered to protest against the demolition of a house belonging to a Wang family in Shihlin by Taipei City Government. Several were expelled by riot police and none arrested.
In recent years drastic rise of house price in the urban area has driven developers desperately in search for old apartment owners for collaborating new house projects. The house owned by the Wang family for six generations was located at the edge of a redevelopment project called Wenlingyuan. If Wang willed to join the project, the usable area of land could be enlarged. Unfortunately, Wang family did not intend to give up their old house. It was conceivable that the Wang family was branded “stubborn nails” and their house “nail house”, a Chinese expression for houses belonging to those who wouldn’t give in for redevelopment.
According to The Taipei Urban Redevelopment Ordinance, if ninety percent of land owners consent to a development project, Taipei City Government may legally step in to use means necessary to help the completion of the project. In Wenlingyuan’s case, Taipei Mayor Hau was required by law to make the decision to demolish Wang house so that the project may proceed. The Mayor did nothing wrong legally; however, he shed tears in front of cameras solemnly telling the public the dilemmatic situation he’s in to enforce the law.
Some pointed out that the law itself has flaws that might be taken advantage of by greedy developers. For example, unless Wang family went through a legal procedure to express their disagreement, they would be deemed as acquiescence to the development project. Premier Sean Chen has called for a revision of urban development regulations and it is hoped that such discrepancy be fixed. We do hope that Wang family is the last victim of a flawed law.