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Taiwan: “When the Excavators Came to the Rice Fields”

A rice field in Dapu, MiaoLi, after 6/9. Photo courtesy of aboutfish

Now occupying only 1.8% of total GDP in Taiwan, no one can deny that local agriculture has lost its once highly-respected status and is almost dying under many political decisions that are not in favor of agriculture. Or we can say that farming is no longer regarded as important and valuable in the minds of politicians, one of which is Liu Cheng-Hung. As magistrate of Miaoli County, on June 9 he sent 20 excavators into the rice fields right on the verge of harvesting, ordering the heavy machines to run amok in a rampage of destruction and annihilating the richly-laden rice fields in the blink of an eye.

Without any attention from mainstream media, the incident was exclusively reported on by citizen journalist dino.utopia, who received a short message on his mobile phone from Dapu residents on the afternoon of June 8:

竹科四周道路被苗栗縣政府封鎖,我們住在裡面的住戶不得進出,連接送孩子上下學都成為問題。

The roads around and near Hsinchu Science Park are all barricaded. We cannot go in or out, including taking our kids to and from school.

This video report was made by dino.utopia with materials submitted by local farmers who were witness to the destruction process:

Peopo Weekly Review translated dino.utopia's article into English:

On the 8th June 2010, a rather queer atmosphere extended over the whole of this simple village. Police put concrete roadblocks in place cutting off any entry or exit form the village. The full strength of the police stealthily made their way into the residential community and forbid the entry of anyone except local residents.

Excavators in the rice field. Photo courtesy of dino.utopia

Then came the excavators:

Farmers tried to obstruct the excavators by standing in their way, pleading with them not to destroy their crops in such a callous way. However no matter whether it was elderly farmers or women holding babies in their arms, all were dealt the same harsh and unforgiving treatment by police. One woman sobbed in tears as she said, “I fell to my knees in front of the excavators begging them not to destroy my farmland, but they just wouldn’t listen to me.”

Excavators drove all over the fields, completely destroying the rice that was ready for harvesting, leaving only a pile of muck in their wake. Farmers could only look on in bewilderment at the destroyed rice fields, speechlessly looking to the heavens for the reason why.

There was zero response on this issue from mainstream media. Many bloggers began to argue [zh] that the good relationship between Liu Cheng-Hung and local media as well as the huge budget spent annually on media purchases and political product placement advertisements were the reason that mainstream media have remained silent.

Further, others [zh] have pointed out that Taiwanese mainstream media almost never pay attention to this kind of incident as they are on the side of “development”. So far, the only channel to spread the message has been through citizen media and blogs.

The only means for this story to reach the public has been through local people, citizen journalists, who have been on the scene to record and broadcast this rough and cruel process over the internet, bringing this harrowing story to the people, allowing even more citizens the opportunity to witness the tears and anguish of these farmers.

Bloggers are showing their solidarity with the people of Dapu by publishing an article with the same title “Liu Cheng-Hung, you might be able to buy media, but you can never buy bloggers!

Wakint reminds us that this is not a first for Liu [zh] by citing a report from 2009:

「苗栗縣長劉政鴻剛上任時,徵收卓蘭58線道路段土地,曾引發180多戶地主不滿,揚言召集民眾躺在路中央抗議。本來縣府公告星期一拆除,劉政鴻卻臨時改在週六,以迅雷不及掩耳的速度拆除。劉政鴻得意地說「我連讓他們躺的機會都沒有。」

Right after Miaoli County Magistrate Liu Cheng-Hung's inauguration, the government “purchased” the land at 58 lane in Zhuolan, which aggravated the more than 180 landowners, who in response convened and laied down on the road in protest. Originally, the county government announced that dismantling would begin on a Monday, but Liu arbitrarily changed the date to the Saturday before, dismantling everything at lightning speed. “I gave them no chance to lay down”, said Liu, with pride.

「今年(2009)一月,由苗栗縣柴燒陶藝創作協會發起的「搶救苗栗古窯行動聯盟」曾抗議,縣府要拆除位於高鐵苗栗站特定區土地上,包含國寶級陶藝家蔡川竹所親自建蓋的傳統「四角窯」在內,總歷史超過140年的三座古窯。趕在文建會召開協調會前,劉政鴻再度下令先行拆除。」

In January(2009), the “Saving Miaoli Old Kiln Alliance” once protested against the county government's plans to dismantle three ancient kilns with more than 140 years of history, including the traditional ‘quadrilateral kiln’ built by National Treasure pottery artist Tsai Chuan-Chu on the land marked for development of the Taiwan High Speed Rail. Before the Council for Cultural Affairs was able to convene a coordination meeting, Liu ordered to dismantle them, again.

Even though Liu claims that there is no other alternative to compulsory “purchases”, citizen media such as “dfun.tw” denounce such claim:

劉政鴻口口聲聲說要發展科學園區,為公眾利益,不得不徵收民地,並且登報將聲援大埔農民的立委抹黑為「反商立委」。但事實上,目前苗栗縣內的園區仍有多數閒置土地,光是竹科銅鑼園區,就有274公頃的土地尚未開發,其中真正動用的僅佔4公頃!
再者,科管局早已表明不再主動徵收民地擴大竹南園區,除非縣府找到廠商進駐。而原先陳情要求擴增廠區的群創,在2009年合併了統寶光電後,廠房早已擴大,沒有擴增需求。苗栗縣府卻仍執意要徵收此地,動機令人費解。且徵收後土地將大量被重劃為住宅區,更引人轉賣土地、「炒作地皮」聯想!

Liu has repeatedly said that for the sake of science park and public interests, compulsory purchasing of private lands is something must be done. He bought newspaper ads to accuse legislators who support Dapu farmers as “legislators against business”. However, the fact is that most existed science industrial parks are not used. More than 247 hectares in Tungluo Park of the Hsinchu Science Park alone have not been developed at all, with only 4 hectares being genuinely put to use!

In addition, the Park Administration had indicated that it would not actively purchase private land to expand Jhunan Park unless the county government finds any companies to enter. Innolux Display Corp., after submitting a petition to expand its factory, merged with Tungbao Photoelectronic Corp.; after expanding its factory, it had no more need to expand further. Miaoli county, however, still insisted on making its purchase of the land compulsory, which makes us doubt its motivation. If purchased, most part of the land will be turned into residential area, and so people cannot help but regard the behavior as transferring land ownership and boosting land price for private interest.

Dapu is just one of the many countryside regions that are facing compulsory government purchase of lands. People, mostly farmers’ families from 二重埔(Er Chong Pu) in Hsinchu, 相思寮(Xiang Si Liao) in Changhua and Wanbao in Miaoli, are all fighting for their right to stay, to continue their relationship with soil and sustain the traditional lifestyle inherited from their ancestors, or just to get compensated with a real reasonable price. Laws that give local governments huge power over private ownership and the ignorance of mainstream media on this issue (and most important public issues), has brought bloggers and citizen journalists together to break the blockade, as Gene NG expresses in his blogpost:

政客應該是這個世界上最沒有學習能力的傢伙,因為他們不斷重蹈歷史錯誤的覆轍,即使這些錯誤一再被歷史證實是愚不可及的。

國民黨當年因農民反抗,而結束在中國的統治,撒離到台灣。過了六十幾年,國民黨當中的某些狗官,仍然搞不清楚狀況。

Politicians are the people who have the poorest learning ability, because they keep on repeating historical mistakes, even though these mistakes have been repeatedly proven to be beyond stupidity.

Kuomintang lost their ruling in China because of a farmers’ uprising and retreated to Taiwan. After 60 years, some god-damned Kuomintang officers still don't get it.

苗栗的怪手毀田事件,不僅是農民辛勞被毀的地方問題,而是整個制度戕害人民生命財產安全保障的問題!是整個社會公義的問題!

自我感覺良好的政府和媒體再作賤人民的智慧,我們就來讓他們賤識到他們該享有的惡果吧!

Excavators damaging rice fields in Miaoli is not a local issue of destroying farmers efforts, but a whole systematic invasion of people's life, property, and security protection! It is an issue of justice in the whole society!

Government and media who are feeling good about themselves have once again trashed people's wisdom, and now we should let them taste the outcome that they deserve!

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