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Professor Hsu Shih-jung on Right to Housing

Professor Hsu Shih-jung of the Department of Land Economics at National Chengchi University spoke on the right to housing on November 18th, 2014.
Professor Hsu began by thanking the Control Yuan’s investigative reports that helped correct the government’s abuse of its power to expropriate land using statistical data. He then pointed out that when property tax fails to generate revenue, government at both central and local levels abused land expropriation, especially zone expropriation. In consequence, large areas of precious lands (designated agricultural zones) have been irreversibly transformed into barren grounds, lowering the country’s self-sufficiency ratio. The government continues to expand the scope of urban planning, which has resulted in an oversupply of housing with an excess of over 6.4 million persons, while many industrial lands are left idle or underused. Moreover, land speculators purchasing expropriated lands have resulted in price hikes and sparsely occupied housing, widening the gap between the rich and poor. As much as the government has the power to expropriate private lands, it should be exercised with extra caution. Instead of making it the last resort for economic development, the local government expropriates private lands as a way to increase revenue and even lists it as a political achievement during elections. The government is evil in its banal form as it expropriates people’s land by force, while citing the principle of administration by law to legitimize its actions. In doing so, the government uproots people in the name of urban planning and overlooks the fact the urban planning was originally designed to ensure all city dwellers to have a roof over their heads by improving public hygiene and reducing housing shortage. Professor Hsu stressed that land expropriation goes beyond monetary compensation. It is a blatant violation of human rights. Unfortunately, the people who suffered the most are often demonized as opportunistic money grabbers. Professor Hsu urged the government to think twice about the ramifications of land expropriation in the name of economic development and whether such action complies with Article 15 of the Constitution and upholds the people’s right to own property as enshrined in Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He also called for special attention to the current problems facing the indigenous people’s right to their native lands, for which modern laws and regulations may not provide the best solutions.
Having served as educator for many years, Professor Hsu said he never thought he would one day become involved in street protests. He did so to overturn the injustice done by the government and the human rights infringement suffered by the people. Professor Hsu spoke to a room crowded with interested listeners. Many among the audience were at one point Professor’s Hsu’s students.
Control Yuan’s Vice President and Convener of the Human Rights Protection Committee, Sun Ta-Chuan welcomed diversity in opinion, saying such is just what the Control Yuan needs to uphold its role as government watchdog. It is with diversity and open-mindedness that the people are able to think outside the box and identify hidden problems. At the end of the session, Vice President Sun presented Professor Hsu a collection of books documenting the human rights protection works completed by the Control Yuan.