Taipei mayor suggests the use of homeless policy on strays

PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je appeared to get himself into trouble again yesterday when he said that stray dogs should be fed in designated areas, citing similar practices in feeding the city's homeless.

"It might be better if you feed them at a designated place and time," the mayor said in response to residents' concerns that there are too many stray dogs. He said that animal lovers who feed the dogs are causing the animals to congregate.

He analogized the situation with residents who give food handouts to the homeless in Taipei's Wanhua District in designated areas.

Ko made the remarks when accompanied by People First Party City Councilor Huang Shan-shan in a visit to Neihu District's Bihu Park. He added that public parks should not be too loud, and that individual freedoms should not impede the freedom of other people.

Taipei City Government spokesman Sidney Lin said later that the mayor was not comparing homeless people to stray dogs. Ko was stressing the importance of setting up a system to manage food giving activities, the Lin said.

Ko Makes U-turn, Halts Factory Demolition

Ko also yesterday announced that demolition work on the site of the Nangang Bottle Cap Factory would be halted immediately.

The mayor made the announcement while visiting the construction area in the afternoon for an inspection visit. He has been criticised by civil organisations for breaking a campaign promise, in which he outlined plans for protection of the derelict factory for its historical value.

Ko's decision to halt current work and bring civic organisations, the municipal government and the city council back to the negotiating table seems to be an about turn on remarks he made earlier last week. Then, he caused ire on the side of protesters when he quipped that his failure to meet his promises was like previous promises by the government "to retake the mainland." Ko later apologised for the remarks.

Protesters began to blockade the site on Friday, obstructing construction crews of Taipei City's Land Development Agency. The city's plans for developing the area include a 10-meter road bisecting the current main gate of the factory. Implementation would entail the demolition or relocation of several structures in the industrial compound.

The Nangang Bottle Cap Factory was built 72 years ago and was used by a lumber company during Japanese colonisation to manufacture tinplate bottle caps before it was bought by the Taiwan liquor monopoly in 1945. It has been dormant since 2004 and has been reviewed as a historically important structure by Taipei's Department of Cultural Affairs.