Protest as new premier sworn in

2017/09/08 15:55:50 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
New Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德, right) shakes hands with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the Presidential Office on Friday.

New Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德, right) shakes hands with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the Presidential Office on Friday.

Taipei, Sept. 8 (CNA) Lai Ching-te (賴清德) was sworn in as premier in a ceremony at the Presidential Office Friday, but while the event was proceeding, dozens of activists staged a protest outside the Executive Yuan, criticizing Lai as someone who evicts people from their homes.

Lai was Tainan mayor since 2010 before being appointed by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to succeed Lin Chuan (林全) as premier. Lin submitted his resignation last week, saying he has completed his mission.

The protesters from several civil groups, including the Anti-Tainan Railway Underground Project Eastward Construction Self-Help Association, blasted the Lai Cabinet as a "real eviction Cabinet," and chanted the slogans "opposing eastward" and "wanting hearings."

"Eviction Abuses, People Wage War," the protesters yelled in front of several ranks of police and barbed wire blockades.

At one point, conflict erupted between the protesters and police as some activists tried to break through the barriers to deliver a board inscribed with the words "Merits On Eviction" to the Executive Yuan headquarters, a few blocks away from the Presidential Office.

Association Chairman Chen Chih-hsiao (陳致曉) argued that Lai promoted many urban renewal projects in Tainan during his term as mayor of the ancient city in southern Taiwan.

Based on that, Chen said he expects that Lai's cabinet will create more "refugees" with the implementation of the controversial Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Project, which is one of the key policies the new premier is tasked with carrying out.

Therefore, they will fight head-to-head against the new cabinet, Chen said.

Construction of the controversial Tainan Railway Underground Project began March 15 this year after several years of protest by the residents of homes that have to be torn down for the project.

The project, aimed at moving a section of railway underground, was approved by the Executive Yuan in 2009. To facilitate the construction of the 8.23-kilometer underground rail line, however, more than 400 houses have to be demolished.

Speculating that the NT$29.36 billion (US$980.5 million) project may have been infiltrated by business syndicates because the planned underground railway will be built east of the original ground-level rail line and as a result, more land will be expropriated and more houses will be torn down, the affected households formed a self-help association in 2012 to protest against the evictions.

Despite strong protests and public petitions, Lai insisted that the underground railway be built as originally planned -- east of the original ground-level line.

In response to the dispute, the Ministry of the Interior has said that the project has been discussed at length by the ministry's Urban Planning Committee.

Many different opinions were submitted and reviewed before the committee approved a plan that it said is safer, will cause less impact and will create a better environment, the ministry said.

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Elizabeth Hsu)

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