Taiwan: Land Expropriation Revision Fails to Address Farmers’ Woes

In the past two years, a number of farmer protests in Taiwan against land expropriation have taken place. Local farmer groups have requested the government to protect farm land from abusive expropriation by amending the Land Expropriation Act.

As the presidential election is approaching, the politicians in the Executive Yuan have decided to revise the law. However, instead of addressing the farmers’ concerns, on December 13, 2011, the lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan passed a revision of the Act that reinstates the interests of development over human rights.

University Professor Hsu SJ summarized the problem of the proposed bill (translated by Paul Cooper and Drew Cameron via his blog):

First, forced land expropriation involves human rights and is not a simple matter of how much compensation is offered. Forced expropriations are uncommon in constitutional democracies — unlike in Taiwan. This is because these nations view the issue as one involving human rights and one that needs to be strictly observed.

Second, land expropriation is a structural issue and not merely a matter of technical evaluation. Because land expropriation robs people of the constitutionally guaranteed rights mentioned above, expropriation must meet very strict conditions — it must serve the community, be necessarily proportional, a last resort and fully compensated. Not one of these conditions should be ignored.

The old lady is worried that her mother will become homeless. Photo by CHYNG

The old lady is worried that her mother will become homeless. Photo by CHYNG

Independent journalist Shuchuan compared [zh] farmer groups’ proposals and the government's revision in her blog. Quite obviously, the bill passed has not answered the farmers’ demand for procedural justice:



Civil society demanded that “productive farmland should be excluded from land expropriation”, except from projects with pervasive public interest, such as military construction and irrigation. The amendment put forward by the Executive Yuan has included a long list of exceptions, such as: military construction, transportation, public construction, irrigation, public hygiene, environmental projects and “projects that have been approved by the Executive Yuan”.


The Executive Yuan only agrees to organize public consultation rather than a public hearing before land expropriation. (Public consultation is not legally binding, the authority can selectively listen to the suggestions put forward in the consultation, while a public hearing is a formal judicial procedure and what has been discussed is legally binding. )



The Executive Yuan has changed the land expropriation compensation from a fixed price to “market price”. But the so-called “market price” is put forward by the local government to the “Land price evaluation committee”. Since most of the land expropriations are initiated by local governments, it is very unlikely that they can be objective in evaluation of the land price.

The civil society demands an evaluation of land price by three independent consultant firms and a central government authority should be responsible for deciding the “market value”.



According to the Executive Yuan's proposal, the government will only relocate the homeless and those low income residents affected by the land expropriation. Civil society demands resettlement for all.

On the night  of December 13, when politicians were debating the revision of Land Expropriation Act at the Legislative Yuan, farmers and activists from the Taiwan Rural Front demonstrated outside the building calling for land justice. Below is a short video uploaded by Taipeicitypost showing the protest scene. Protesters keep calling out, “For land justice, make no compromise”:

Many farmers shared their stories about forced land expropriation on that night. University student, Xie Er-ting shared [zh] what he had heard from the farmers in his blog:


Brother Ar-den, the winner of top 10 Taiwan classic rice farmer, told everyone on the stage: “My farmland has been expropriated.” The farmland of three other ChuBei farmers who were among the top three in the best rice award for three consecutive years had also been expropriated for the construction of the National Taiwan University's campus. But the expropriated land has remained vacant for 10 years. A 70-year old lady was shedding tears on stage because her 100 year-old mother would become homeless soon. A Hakka farmer could not continue his speech and started singing a folk song, as if he was calling for spirits to calm his heart.

Xie was very sad and questioned the role of the government:


Where is the government? No government officials showed their concern on that night. What we saw was police officers standing there indifferently in their uniforms in front of the gate. The lawmakers were “negotiating” inside the building in their second reading of the bill, “setting” the future of the people outside the building.


In this country, my home could be expropriated with little compensation because of an inexplicable “announcement”. In this country, the annual income per capita is up to USD20,000. It is the world's silicon valley. However, what we see here is a group of elders begging for help in the cold winter night. They don't want to become homeless, that's all. Can we call this an advanced country? I really don't know.

Indeed, the impact of land expropriation has been pervasive in Taiwan, Food Crisis and Global Land Grab has published a list of expropriation sites.

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