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DPP, New Taipei lock horns over construction timeline of Lai's property

12/25/2023 05:39 PM
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Lai Ching-te's campaign spokesperson Kuo Ya-hui (right) and DPP Legislator-at-Large Hung Sun-han show a copy of an old document and a statement to claim that the vice president's New Taipei building has been in place since 1958 during a news conference in Taipei Monday. Photo courtesy of Lai Ching-te's campaign headquarters Dec. 25, 2023
Lai Ching-te's campaign spokesperson Kuo Ya-hui (right) and DPP Legislator-at-Large Hung Sun-han show a copy of an old document and a statement to claim that the vice president's New Taipei building has been in place since 1958 during a news conference in Taipei Monday. Photo courtesy of Lai Ching-te's campaign headquarters Dec. 25, 2023

Taipei, Dec. 25 (CNA) The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the New Taipei government are embroiled in a dispute regarding the construction timeline of the DPP presidential candidate's property, with each side presenting evidence that paints contrasting narratives.

On Monday, the New Taipei land administration department issued a statement saying DPP presidential candidate Lai Ching-te (賴清德)'s family home had been "constructed from ground level in 2003" and published aerial photos they claimed to be evidence.

Lai's campaign spokesperson Kuo Ya-hui (郭雅慧), meanwhile, countered the local government's statement at a presser in Taipei on the same day by presenting Lai's family household certificate, which she said was evidence that the house in Wanli District had existed since 1958.

She explained that the house had undergone an on-site renovation, that it was not a new building, and urged the New Taipei government to cease spreading "false information."

The ongoing sparring intensified on Sunday when New Taipei claimed the house was not similar to surrounding buildings, in an apparent response to Lai's previous assertion that the house had existed since 1958.

Kuo replied on Sunday evening that Lai's childhood home had been standing since 1958 and that it was where he was "born and raised."

She added that details regarding the property had been clarified on multiple occasions and expressed bewilderment as to why New Taipei's land administration department was continuing to release "biased news statements."

A graphic released by the New Taipei City government, which compiled areal images of the area in question taken by the National Land Surveying and Mapping Center between 1980 and 2022 (top left to top right) and by the Aerial Survey Office between 1979 and 2022 (bottom left to bottom right).
A graphic released by the New Taipei City government, which compiled areal images of the area in question taken by the National Land Surveying and Mapping Center between 1980 and 2022 (top left to top right) and by the Aerial Survey Office between 1979 and 2022 (bottom left to bottom right).

Determining the year of construction is crucial because it could result in the building being deemed an illegal structure.

The New Taipei government said in September that the house could only be acknowledged as a legal building if the owner provided evidence that the structure predated 1981.

Lai emphasized during a policy presentation campaign last week that all work on the structure had been completed before 1974, when the Regional Planning Act, which prohibits unauthorized expansion, was passed.

The dispute surrounding Lai's family home in New Taipei has been in the headlines for months.

Both the main opposition Kuomintang and the fledging Taiwan People's Party have repeatedly accused Lai's family of illegally expanding the property and claimed that the building should have been torn down by the New Taipei government years ago.

TPP legislator-at-large nominee Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) has also accused Lai of not paying housing taxes on the Wanli property for more than two decades and demanded the payment of back taxes and a fine.

DPP presidential candidate is greeted by supporters during a visit to a temple in Taipei Monday afternoon. CNA photo Dec. 25, 2023
DPP presidential candidate is greeted by supporters during a visit to a temple in Taipei Monday afternoon. CNA photo Dec. 25, 2023

In response to the criticism, Lai reiterated during a policy presentation platform last week that his old family home was one of the hundreds of renovated miners' housing units built decades ago in New Taipei, where there used to be several mining districts.

However, over the years the mining companies closed down and many of the small units were purchased and renovated into larger buildings for safety reasons, Lai claimed.

The controversy led to Lai and Ko trading barbs over the weekend, with Ko saying the way Lai has dealt with the house suggests he "definitely would be a dictator," in a video message played at a labor protest in Taipei.

When asked by reporters about Ko's remarks on Sunday, Lai said that only those who emulate former Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong or the Qing dynasty's Yongzheng Emperor could possibly be dictators, referring to Ko's previous comments about historical figures he admires.

KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) is the incumbent New Taipei mayor. He took a leave of absence in September in order to run for the top job.

(By Chung Yu-chen, Yeh Su-ping, Wang Hong-kuo and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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