Most of my stories are pulled from Taiwan’s Chinese-language media, however, this is one I eye-witnessed, on my way to buy breakfast this morning. In our quiet, and peaceful neighborhood of Shulin I turned a corner and and unexpectedly came across a small crowd of officials, curious citizens, and police.
An old, single-storey house was festooned with two American flags, one at ground level and one on the roof, and adorned with roughly spray-painted Chinese characters. My Chinese literacy is far from 100 percent but I understood the phrase ‘go back to China’.
I paused for a moment to take in the scene. The roughly scrawled Chinese characters gave me the the impression that the house was the subject of a graffiti attack, but the American flags, and the resident on the roof made me realize I was witnessing a protest. Two doors up from the old house was a construction site with a medium-rise building halfway-built. A backhoe and bobcat were parked in front of me facing the house, and the drivers were patiently waiting and watching the proceedings.
I was hungry and on a mission to satisfy that primary need. Chinese people always say “eating comes first” and it’s a truism. I noticed that no media people were present. The only person recording the incident was the resident on the roof. He stood proudly and defiantly facing the crowd, filming them with his phone. I moved on.
As I waited for my breakfast, the scene ran through my mind. I rewound the mental video tape, paused it at points, and considered carefully what I had witnessed. I surmised that the resident of the house was facing a forceful eviction，and demolition of his home: not an unusual occurrence in Taiwan. The Chinese script I re-read slowly started to make sense: “Government in exile demolishes Taiwan peoples’ homes, go back to China!
On the way home, I stopped to take this video: again, no media were on site, which is unusual when something like this goes on.
As I relaxed at home enjoying my breakfast, the situation outside escalated, and finally grabbed media attention when the man started to display ‘molotov cocktails’ consisting of mainly non-flammable liquids such as water, vinegar and detergents. One of the bottles contained ‘banana oil’ which can be flammable.
I don’t know if this man is wrong or right. If his cause is worthy, let justice stand. If he is a lunatic, let justice forgive him. From what I’ve read in the media it seems that he has suffered from being in the ‘gray zone’ of a culture that is governed by the rule of law but is subject to deeper traditions.
One source claimed he paid NT 500, 000 for the house but had no rights to the land, and the owner sold the land to someone else. Another source claimed ‘the creditors’ had rights to the land. I guess this is a Chinese version of a mortgage, with no bank involved.