Open letter: Do not evict the Hua Kuang community

Press release

Mr. Tseng Yung-Fu

Minister of Justice

CC :

Human Rights Consulting Committee under Presidential Office
Member of the ICCPR &ICESR review committee:

Prof. Nowak Manfred

Prof. Eibe Riedel

Ms. Virginia Dandan

Paris, 14 March 2013

Dear Minister of Justice,
We are writing on behalf of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) to request that your ministry and other concerned authorities take the measures necessary so that the Hua Kuang (華光) residents are not evicted from their homes and lands and prepare, in close consultation with them, a fair relocation plan. FIDH and TAHR were told that Hua Kuang remaining residents were asked to pay exorbitant penalties, that their savings accounts have been frozen and that those with jobs have been deducted a third of their salary, due to injunctions issued by the local court. These measures are not acceptable and entail a violation of several rights, such as the right to property and the right to work, affecting the degree of enjoyment of other rights such as the right to education, health and culture, the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing. The State has the obligation to protect these rights and not infringe upon them according to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Taiwan has ratified.

FIDH is a non-governmental organization dedicated to defending and protecting universal human rights, we have actively participated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) review process in the Republic of China (ROC). Following a mission to Taiwan in November 2012, FIDH attended together with TAHR, its member organization in Taiwan, the recent meetings with the ten international experts, government agencies, national and international NGOs.

Despite the introduction of the Urban Renewal Act (1998), poor urban residents continue to face forced evictions and the demolitions of their houses. The experts’ concluding observations drew attention to the question of right to adequate housing in urban areas as one of the most critical issues in Taiwan. We are gravely disappointed that at the very time that your Ministry was hosting the Review Meeting of the ROC’s Initial reports under the ICCPR and ICESCR, eviction plans contrary to the letter and the spirit of those covenants were being carried out, from land owned by your Ministry, and of tenants of whom many were long time employees of your Ministry, and others also had been tacitly allowed to settle in this area.

Current residents have lived there for up to 60 years or more. Many inherited the properties from their ancestors long before the ROC governed the area. In addition, the remaining Hua Kuang residents are poor, aged, sick, disabled and completely unable to afford a standard rent in Taipei City, nor to face the trauma of destruction of their homes and displacement. They are therefore a vulnerable population, which makes them particularly entitled to the protection of their rights. Section 47 of the Concluding observations and Recommendations of the international experts refers explicitly to the case of the Shaoxing and Hua Kuang communities and the fact that they are being evicted “without adequate alternative housing”. Section 49 also recommends “forced evictions be stopped unless alternative housing is provided”. Unless immediate action is taken, these communities will become homeless and it will be difficult to provide them with minimum socio-economic support.

The problem is an immediate one and, the Ministry of Justice being the owner of the Hua Kuang land, immediate relief can be granted. In the longer term we urge you to amend both the Urban Renewal Act and the Urban Land Consolidation Act, so as to prevent forced evictions and provide effective legal remedies or procedures to those who are affected by eviction. The Government of Taiwan should also cease controversial urban development projects until they have been reviewed by independent third parties and after community members have been adequately noticed and have exercised the right to express their views and grievances as prescribed by ICESCR General Comment n. 4 (on the right to adequate housing, 1991) and ICESCR General Comment n. 7 (on the right to adequate housing, forced evictions, 1997) and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development- Based Evictions and Displacement. These amendments should seek to clearly envisage forced evictions as a last resort, after exhaustion of all feasible alternatives and provided that these are carried out lawfully and in particular based on genuine consultation.

The government of Taiwan should also provide complete information concerning monitoring of the right to adequate housing in the reports submitted under the ICESCR, including specific large-scale development projects, urban renewal programs, beautiful city projects and others during the period under review, and take all necessary measures and in particular strengthen domestic framework to protect people against forced evictions from their homes or land.

FIDH and TAHR hope that this submission may contribute to support the cause of the Huan Kuang residents and of all Taiwanese citizens forcefully evicted from their house.

Most sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President

Lai Chung Chiang, TAHR President

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