The Majority of the Plaintiffs Have Won in the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Land Expropriation Case!

Translated by: Zoe Wang, Intern

The Taoyuan Aerotropolis land expropriation cancellation lawsuit, thanks to the perseverance of the residents and the legal team, obtained a favorable ruling from the Taipei High Administrative Court. We appreciate the careful examination by the judges of the Taipei High Administrative into the points of contention, and hope that this verdict will again draw attention from the Ministry of the Interior, relevant government agencies, and society to the serious infringement of people’s basic rights caused by zone land expropriation. We also urge the Ministry of the Interior and the Civil Aeronautics Administration of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication to, instead of wasting resources on appealing this decision, immediately work with Taoyuan City Government and other relevant government units to review the Taoyuan Aerotropolis plan as a whole and negotiate with the residents in order to return the expropriated land to the residents, so as to not make this “major national development” be cast in the shadow of human rights violations.

Taoyuan Aerotropolis is the largest zone expropriation case in Taiwan, initiatives for the construction of the airport’s third runway. The Ministry of the Interior’s urban plan for Taoyuan Aerotropolis encompasses over 4,500 hectares, and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and Taoyuan City Government have jointly expropriated over 3,100 hectares. The first phase of expropriation alone covered an area over 2,599 hectares, which caused strong backlash from society from the beginning. Today, the ruling for the Taoyuan Aerotropolis land expropriation case was announced (Taipei High Administrative Court, Court Year 110 (2021), Su-Zi No. 860). This lawsuit not only discussed the public interest, necessity, and proportionality principles regarding zone land expropriation but also whether or not the negotiated purchase procedures’ violated the “International Airport Park Development Act” (國際機場園區發展條例), modification of the urban plan after the expropriation announcement, and the separation of land and property development in the expropriation process.

We urge the Ministry of the Interior and the Civil Aeronautics Administration to abandon the appeal and genuinely examine whether the expropriation upholds the public interest and necessity principles. 

Xiong Yiling (熊依翎), a lawyer representing the legal team, expressed gratitude for the court’s judgment, which allows the land and homes of their clients, the plaintiffs, to be preserved. She also expressed that this verdict is a significant milestone in Taiwan’s land expropriation system. Although they have not seen the court’s reasoning for finding this case’s land expropriation unlawful, they believe that this judgment serves as a warning to all agencies  involved in land expropriation. All land expropriation must follow the principles of public interest, necessity, and proportionality. In this case, it was clear that their clients’ land was not expropriated for public interest or necessity. She also expressed her gratitude for the efforts of their clients. Without their persistence, she said they would have not achieved this partial victory. But regarding the plaintiff whose claim was dismissed, they feel regret and will actively appeal to fight for his rights. In addition, the debate surrounding Taoyuan Aerotropolis extends beyond this lawsuit. Since the beginning of this expropriation case, various legal teams have been working diligently, hoping to help the residents of Taoyuan defend their homes. Therefore, this victory is the result of the collective efforts of all those involved in assisting this case. Finally, she appeals to the defendant, the Ministry of the Interior and the Civil Aeronautics Administration to abandon the appeal and really examine the public interest and necessity of this zone expropriation so that the residents can regain their land as soon as possible. 

Lu Xueshin (呂學信), representing the Yugang Road plaintiffs, stated that their community is located on both sides of Yugang Road and has not been within the scope of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis plans for many years. However, after many residents in the neighboring area petitioned for their inclusion, they were forcibly included at the last minute. Lu Xuexin continued to say that the government does not need to use their land to construct the third runway at Taoyuan Airport; it was not needed before and remains unnecessary now. The land was expropriated due to others’ private interests. Now that the high court has deemed the expropriation of his land unlawful, he feels that a weight has been lifted from his heart and gratitude for the assistance from all those involved and various sectors of society for paying attention to this case. 

Wu Mingzhe (吳明哲), representing the Ziqiang Community plaintiffs, stated that the Ziqiang Community, located at the entrance of the airport, was an area that was supposed to stay a residential area before 2019. Without the knowledge of the residents, a large number of residents expressed their desired to be included in the expropriation plans and a large portion of the community was included as a result, forcing the residents who wanted to keep their homes to start a long-term resistance. The residents who wanted to remain in the community repeatedly argued that there was no need for the expropriation of the Ziqiang Community. Wu Mingzhe often addressed the government himself through press conferences, stating that the 2019 plan for preserving the Ziqiang Community went through a public hearing and that the city government should respect  the agreement that “those who want to be expropriated can be expropriated, but those who refuse to be expropriated can be excluded [from the expropriation plans],” but he wasn’t taken seriously. He expressed gratitude for the court’s judgment, as now the residents have been given justice.

Yu Yicha (余宜家), the Deputy Secretary-General of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, added that the location of the plaintiff residents, regardless of whether they were in the Zhubei Street, Ziqiang Community, Yugang Road, or Haishan Road areas, were for many years excluded from the expropriation plan or were neighboring lands almost identical to locations that did not require expropriation, demonstrating that these areas do not need to be expropriated and that the residents keeping their land does not hinder the overall construction plan of Taoyuan Aerotropolis; expropriating their land does not follow the necessity principle. Furthermore, the zone land expropriation system (an institution rarely seen in democratic countries but is seen in Taiwan) has been heavily criticized not only because of the large number of households and large area that it affects, but also because it violates peoples’ basic housing and property rights. Additionally, the land allocation system after section land expropriation is beneficial to large landlords and financial groups, easily displacing those with small or no property rights, which leads to negative social consequences and exacerbates social inequity. Over the past few years, the Ministry of the Interior has repeatedly stated that it hopes to improve the zone land expropriation system; we wish that it will conduct a substantive review and, on the premise of addressing structural issues head-on, amend the current land expropriation system as soon as possible.

Assisted by NGOs such as the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Anti-Forced Eviction Alliance (航空城反迫遷聯盟), the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (台灣人權促進會), the Environmental Jurists Association (環境法律人協會), and the Environmental Rights Foundation (環境權保障基金會), there are five lawsuits related to Taoyuan Aerotropolis. Related to this case, the Taoyuan Aerotropolis expropriation revocation lawsuit is about to begin oral arguments. With the assistance of residents and a legal team, the third runway environmental impact assessment (EIA) revocation lawsuit was appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court at the end of May. In addition, there are ongoing lawsuits in the Taipei High Administrative Court seeking the revocation of expropriation in nearby areas, the revocation of expropriation of land improvements in nearby areas, and the invalidation of the confirmation of the urban plan. Please continue to pay attention!