Andy Singh, owner of Out of India restaurant, is one of the many small business owners in the ShiDa who has been standing up to the harassment over the past few years by developers, who want to turn the heart of Taiwan’s once liveliest district into a more lucrative and commercial shopping area
By Trista di Genova
When I came to Taiwan over 10 years ago, I used to hang out with my friends in ‘ShiDa’, a great neighborhood named after the university (NTNU, National Taiwan Normal University (國立臺灣師範大學)).
The ShiDa night market ( 師大夜市, Shī dà yèshì) used to be Taiwan’s most cosmopolitan area. It had numerous ethnic restaurants, outdoor cafes and vendors. In sum, it was the best part of Taiwan.
Today, ShiDa is a sad spectre of its former, vivacious self. Now, any given evening, even a Friday or Saturday night – – ShiDa, once teeming with activity and populated by a great mix of locals, students and foreigners alike, is eerily dead, almost totally devoid of life compared to its former glory.
Even Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), the current Taipei mayor, once touted it as a model district. Then in 2011, Hau did an about face, putting an ‘expansion ban’ on ShiDa, allowing no further expansion of Taiwan’s liveliest night market area.
Night markets are Taiwan’s Number 1 tourist attraction, according to a 2009 survey by the ROC Tourism Bureau. Night markets were the most popular spots to visit for foreign tourists (with 73 visits per 100 people), easily surpassing Taipei 101 (with 58) and the National Palace Museum (52) as the island’s hottest tourist attractions.
Thereafter, about two years ago now, everything began to change for the worse …
What the heck happened? Who killed ShiDa?
On the ground, the atmosphere in ShiDa became tense and oppressive. The neighbors began constantly lodging noise complaints in ShiDa Park against the small groups of people who congregated there, and who were talking, having discussions, or sometimes singing, playing guitar, drinking and smoking –- all the activities for which everybody loved to hang out in the park that lines ShiDa Road.
As it turns out –- and this information comes from long-time ShiDa residents – most of these ‘neighbors’, the newly outraged residents of a once-bustling night market area, only moved to ShiDa “within the last 2 or 3 years.”
So the police started constantly crashing the party, responding to all the neighborhood complaints by ‘residents’. The cops, who understandably felt they were “just doing their job”, however started demanding people – foreigners mainly – to show their IDs.
I’ve been present several times when the cops come, and it’s always foreigners, and not Taiwanese, who are asked for identification, which in my book is tantamount to intimidation and harassment. In my experience, Taiwanese were asked for ID only if they were with a group of foreigners.
Why would the authorities want to harass foreigners?
I asked long-time residents this question, and they said quite simply, “Foreigners are too lively.” Foreigners have too much fun, we enjoy life… and they were the life blood of ShiDA. Foreigners were even part of the attraction of ShiDa — a place where you could people-watch and see the wonderful mix of many cultures. City officials wanted to shut down the multicultural party that was going on, any given night of the week.
Then, too, one by one, the restaurants began closing doors. The same residents had begun lodging complaints and calling in inspectors to fine the business owners.
What was going on?
According to insiders, the ‘residents’ had allied themselves with local and city officials, who targeted the heart of ShiDa for a shopping mall-like makeover. They were calling in city inspectors, who began slapping restaurant owners with fines for so-called ‘violations’.
Insiders say that developers have been working in conjunction with the Taipei City Council and Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), the city mayor, and that developers paid officials kickbacks (“21 wan” , or 210,000nt according to one source) to make the ShiDa area “dead, completely dead.”
In sum, there’s said to be an alliance of the city officials, developers and their fronts of ‘neighborhood associations’ like the Shidahood Self Help Association (師大三里里民自救會), who are running out the ‘small people’ in ShiDa – often with a combination of bribery and intimidation of those people who put up resistance to the city’s ‘renovation’… and by targeting them (through Shidahood’s blog), for example, to fine the businesses out of existence, especially those who have no connections to this group of… ‘gentrificators’ let’s call them something nice.
I asked Andy Singh what was going on. I met Andy one night in ShiDa park, and discovered he is one of the few local business owners who has been able to stave off the nefarious characters who are destroying the heart of ShiDa – at least so far.
Why would anyone want to kill business in ShiDa?
Andy: They’re [developers?] going to make the area dead, then buy the land for a cheaper price. They make people go bankrupt on the first floor, then buy the building. It’s happening in many areas in Taipei city. This area’s getting more expensive day by day.
Wild East: What is the strategy to shut down ShiDa?
Andy: Harassment. They decide “We are going to shut down all the shops in this area,” and on which shops within that area. They say “We’re going to complain about the landlords renting the 2nd floor for small rooms, and say it’s ‘all illegal’.” Business was so good before, they had to scare them to get them to leave. So they’d say [owners] didn’t have an exhaust pipe going up the wall and would have to shut it down. Or else, every day they’d send inspectors.
They always come to inspect, and if they find anything illegal, you have to shut it down. For most businesses, when they receive a 60k fine they’re gone, because we can’t afford a 300,000nt fine. Then they start to scare them. Don’t ask questions or else the fine will double or triple.
Rabbit Rabbit spent 3 million NT on decoration, and they got a fine because it’s on an 8m-wide road. But still, if it’s even on a 12m road, [developers] figure “If we want to give you trouble we’ll give you trouble.”
So by seven months ago, all of [the restaurants] were gone [at least 40]. Now, only two are left – Kelly Pizza Pasta and me.
Wild East: What businesses have been forced to close?
Andy: Before in ShiDa, these lanes had so many great restaurants – Tibetan, Thai, Korean, Italian, American, Chinese. They took Roxy Jr. For the first time in 25 years, Roxy Jr. Café had to shut their doors!
Wild East:What about KGB Burger?
Andy: They [developers] don’t need that area.
Wild East Do the developers have a map for all this?
Andy: Yes, there’s a map.
Wild East: Sounds like ‘gentrification’. How do they get businesses to leave?
Andy: [The City says] because the roads are not 4m wide, they can’t have a business there. So the business owners receive their 1st fine, 60,000nt (US$2,000). If they don’t pay the fine in one month, it becomes 300,000nt (US$10,000). The 3rd fine is 900,000nt. After that, they cut off all electricity and water.
David Frazier, a ShiDa resident, has written several excellent articles for Taipei Times about the crisis in ShiDa. Here are some links to them:
Travel writers warn Taipei City: Destroying Shida is a “stupid move”
Under the gun: Underworld, a rock club on Shida Road known as a launchpad for indie bands, will close its doors due to resident complaints and government policies…”
Excerpt from David’s article “Dodgy dealings”:
Generally, the Shidahood blog has anticipated which streets and lanes will see heavy inspections weeks before they happen and named hit-lists of undesirable businesses. Notably, these have included Toasteria, Rabbit Rabbit (兔子兔子) and 1885 Burger, all of which closed down.
Not long after the Shidahood Association formed, Taipei City formed a Special Shida Taskforce (師大專案小組) headed by deputy mayor Sherman Chen (陳雄文) and involving a wide array of government departments. So far, the city has put a moratorium on the phrase “Shida Night Market” and stopped recommending Shida as a tourist destination (along with Yongkang St., an area loved by foodies that includes Taiwan’s most famous restaurant, Ding Tai Fung.)
Then in April, the city began its first wave of inspections and fines. It first targeted Pucheng Street, Alley 13, otherwise known as “International Food Street” (異國美食街), a lane that had been filled with restaurants for at least 15 years. Now only one restaurant remains, Singh’s Out of India.
文/ Trista di Genova
前言: Andy Singh一家印度餐廳的老闆,和其他師大商圈的小店主一樣,在過去幾年挺身而出抵抗開發建商的騷擾,因為建商盤算著將這個區域變成更有利可圖的商業購物區.
師大夜市曾是台灣最繁華的區域, 有眾多異國餐廳,戶外咖啡店和攤販. 當時的師大是台灣最棒的地方.
師大商圈內,氣氛轉趨緊張對立. 臨近住戶開始不斷地針對師大公園聚集的人群提出噪音檢舉. 在師大路上聊天,討論,唱歌,彈吉他,喝酒,抽菸,都曾是人們享受的活動.
於是警察應“鄰近住戶”要求, 開始經常解散聚會. 然而“依法辦理”的警員開始要求人們(主要是外國人)出示身分證件.
我曾有數次在現場,每次皆為外國人被要求出示證件,而非台灣人. 對我而言這樣的行為相當於威嚇及騷擾. 以我的經驗來說,台灣人只有與外國人一起時才會被要求出示證件.
我詢問長住該區的居民為何政府要騷擾外國人?他們的答案很簡單, “外國人太活躍了”. 外國人太享受在這邊的樂趣, 而這些樂趣是師大地區的活力來源.外國人甚至是師大的景點,人們可以在這裡看到多種文化的混合. 市府官員想結束這些每晚舉辦的多文化派對.
據知情者指出, “鄰近住戶”與地方及市府官員聯手, 目標是將師大中心區域改建為購物商場. 該群住戶召來市府稽查人員,以所謂的“違規”罰鍰打擊餐廳業者.
知情者表示建商與台北市政府及市長郝龍斌合作,付出二十一萬的酬金(根據消息來源),要置師大商圈於死地. 總之, 據聞市府官員,建商與作為其前鋒的居民自救會(例如師大三里里民自救會)結盟,將師大的小老百姓趕出師大,手段包括賄賂,脅迫反抗“都更”者,在自救會部落格針對特定商家攻擊,處以罰鍰至商家消失為止,特別是與這群“仕紳”沒有交情者. 我詢問Andy Singh發生了什麼事. 一晚我們在師大公園見面, 得知他是少數能躲避被摧毀命運的商家之一.
Andy: 他們(建商?)要這個區域死掉,然後以較低價格買下土地. 他們讓一樓所有者破產,然後買下整棟房子. 這種情況在台北市許多地區都已發生.這個區域越來越貴.
Andy: 騷擾. 他們決定要“讓這個區域的店家都關們”.他們說要“檢舉出租二樓小房間的房東違法”. 這邊以前的生意很好,他們得恐嚇商家離開. 所以他們會說(店家)沒有合格的排氣管,必須停業. 或者每天派稽查員過來.
兔子兔子花了三百萬裝潢,然後收到一張罰單,因為他們開在八米寬的路上. 但即使是在十二米寬的道路上, (建商)仍舊認為“我們要找你麻煩就可以找你麻煩”.所以七個月前,所有的餐廳都走了(至少四十家).現在,只剩下兩家, Kelly PizzaPasta跟我們.
Andy: 以往在師大, 巷弄裡有許多極佳的餐廳, 西藏菜,泰國菜,韓國菜,義大利菜,美式餐廳,中式餐廳. 二十五年來他們首次拿下了Roxy Jr. Roxy Jr. Café 不得不關門.
Andy: 有, 有地圖 (見連結)
本報: 聽起來像那些 “地方仕紳”. 他們是怎麼讓商家離開的?
Andy: (市府說)因為道路不足4米寬,所以不能開店. 所以商家收到第一張罰單,新台幣六萬(美金兩千). 如果他們一個月內不付,就會變成三十萬(美金一萬).第三次罰款是九十萬. 最後就斷水斷電.
通常數周前, 師大三里里民自救會的部落格就預告了哪些街道巷弄及商家會面臨頻繁的稽查.尤其是Toasteria, 兔子兔子及1885漢堡, 這些餐廳已全數停業.
在師大三里里民自救會成立後不久,台北市府組成了師大專案小組,由台北市副市長率領,包括市府各層級部門. 目前為止, 市府已禁止使用“師大夜市”之名,並停止將師大(及永康街)作為觀光景點推廣
市府於四月開始第一波稽查及罰鍰. 目標先是蒲城街13巷,也就是聞名的異國美食街,此街開餐廳的歷史已有十五年,目前只有一家餐廳倖存, Singh’s Out of India.
– Translated by Cathy Chan
4 thoughts on “Who Killed ShiDa? The heart of Taiwan has died a slow death”
Stumbled upon your post when I was looking up info to write my own blogpost on the death of Shida, as my house is in the area.
I just don’t really understand the flow of your article: The bit about foreigners being unreasonably harassed due to the fact that officials want to shut down “the multi-cultural party” distracts from (what I think is…) the point of your article/interview–the fact that Shida is coming down due to an underhanded, politician-backed scheme to make it into a sleeker, more lucrative space. I’ve heard quite a bit about the Shida issue and I do agree that it’s absolutely stupid to ‘kill” Shida, and it’s a vital part of Taipei, (though probably not to the level of being “the heart of Taiwan”, per your title)–but this foreigner bit made me pause.
“…Foreigners have too much fun, we enjoy life… and they were the life blood of ShiDA. Foreigners were even part of the attraction of ShiDa — a place where you could people-watch and see the wonderful mix of many cultures.” Setting aside your obvious sarcasm (which damages the tone of the article), it’s patently obvious that foreigners are NOT the lifeblood of Shida; one only needs to take a stroll around to see that (not surprisingly) most of the pedestrians are still (and have always been) Taiwanese; mainly Taiwanese students from the surrounding Shida and Taida campuses. I speak from my perspective as an ABC; as people who also straddle the line into tourist/foreigner at times, Shida Night Market is (..was?) famous for its diverse/cheap shopping, NOT for its ‘people-watching’. There are over 12,000 students at Shida and over 30,000 at Taida, most of whom are not foreigners; and quite honestly, the main bulk of business comes from them.
“City officials wanted to shut down the multicultural party that was going on, any given night of the week”–While I hope you weren’t deliberately straying into ‘foreigner pity party’ territory, you’re edging dangerously close. Your ‘multi-cultural party’ was essentially people standing around eating snacks from the night market and possibly in a state of inebriation, talking and lounging about late into the twee hours of the night, so let’s not make it something more than what it is. I totally get that the Shida park is a public space; and that it should be used accordingly. However, I also get why foreigners have gotten this reputation; personally, I know 2 separate residents of Shida (one of them my ex) that have been asked to move from their apartments after throwing outrageously noisy house parties. When the police knocked on the door, he proudly stood at the door and showed his foreign ID, grinning when they couldn’t understand his English, became embarrassed, and left. Taiwanese police may act like assholes at times, but they get their share right back from some foreign Shida residents.
In the end, I do agree that it’s ridiculous–what’s happening at Shida; with the building codes and unreasonable fines, etc etc. It’s totally unfair, and I can only pray for Shida’s continued existence (after all, I go there every single day; and it certainly raises our house’s value, which those nasty residents should think about)–but I hardly think that Shida depends on foreigners, or that they’ve been unfairly held up as some sort of scapegoat; your other-wise excellent article could have done without these insinuations.
Nice piece and to the point..
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Excellent work, trista