by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: 大觀事件-Daguan Homeless/Facebook
MATTERS OF JUSTICE remain unresolved for members of the Daguan Community facing eviction, as observed in a recent incident in which Daguan Community members and supportive youth activists were detained by police after a protest. The protest took place outside a flag retirement ceremony attended by Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen and DPP New Taipei City mayoral candidate Su Tseng-Chang.
Likely the event was meant to be a campaign appearance for the DPP, with Tsai demonstrating her support for Su. On the other hand, this is also why demonstrators targeted the ceremony, seeing as Su is the DPP’s New Taipei City mayoral candidate and Daguan Community is located in New Taipei City.
Moreover, it is a common practice for civil society activists in Taiwan to protest the central government in reaction to incidents ordered by local governments, in the hopes that the central government will take action to curb the actions of local governments. Hence why demonstrators would seek to protest at an event which no less than the president was attending. Past demonstrations by Daguan Community residents have similarly targeted the DPP, including a camp-out outside of the DPP party headquarters.
Demonstrators allege a disproportionate police response, seeing as the police violently dragged away demonstrators, forcing them into a small protest zone. Several dozen demonstrators were later arrested and taken away in a police bus, the process of which was livestreamed on social media by demonstrators. Demonstrators allege that their freedom of movement and political expression was violated in the course of this, as well as that they were refused access to a bathroom or water, denying rights which police are obligated to provide the arrested.
Daguan Community is a military dependents’ village, although some of the current residents are individuals who purchased the buildings within from its original military dependent residents. Military dependents’ villages were historically populated by poor soldiers that came with the KMT from China to Taiwan but subsequently found themselves marooned in Taiwan in a foreign land. The KMT evidenced little interest in the welfare of members of its former army afterwards, despite that military veterans sometimes hung onto faith in the KMT to take care of them for decades. This continues in the present, with residents of many military dependents’ villages facing evictions for commercial development or urban infrastructure projects at the hand of KMT-run local governments.
Demonstrations against forced evictions of military dependents’ villages were a cause taken up by youth activists in the years before the Sunflower Movement, including Daguan Community, Huaguang Community, Shaoxing Community, and others. Against claims by the KMT and other pan-Blue actors that pro-Taiwan youth activists that later participated in the Sunflower Movement are discriminatory towards waishengren, military veterans, or the elderly—as observed in opposition to the actions of anti-pension reform groups as the “800 Heroes” by youth activists. In cases where pro-Taiwan youth activists were demonstrating on behalf of former military veterans, this was in spite of that such veterans may have still identified with China or pan-Blue ideology.
Daguan Community has lost many of its original residents, but some families continue to live there, having lived there for decades. For some elderly residents of Daguan Community, moving at this late stage in their life could literally be a death sentence. For example, when residents of military dependents’ villages are moved, they are usually put in high-rise housing complexes—leading some to dismiss protests by youth activists in support of residents of military dependents’ villages as frivolous, seeing as military dependents’ villages are usually run-down and residents are given comparatively higher-equality and more expensive housing in return. But among the residents of Daguan Community are individuals old enough and infirm enough that they are actually unable to use elevators and would be unable to use them in a high-rise housing complex in order to get to their homes.
Protests against plans to evict residents of Daguan Community by youth activists has demonstrated a large amount of creativity in past years, including tours of the neighborhood to illustrate the many decades of history that Daguan Community has, as well as musical and artistic performances. Residents of Daguan Community themselves have sometimes resorted to using force to trying to stop attempts to tear down buildings in the community, including piling up debris in order to impede construction equipment.
Nevertheless, it remains to raise public awareness of Daguan Community’s plight. Certainly, Daguan is a high-profile military dependents’ community facing eviction, but Daguan Community has not yet become a national issue in the way that other cases of forced eviction have been in past years.