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Activists urge minister to back sanatorium's bid for UNESCO status

2012/05/02 18:33:03

Taipei, May 2 (CNA) Local activists called for greater attention to the preservation of Losheng Sanatorium on Wednesday, urging the culture minister to support a campaign to have the building in New Taipei listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

At a protest in front of the Council of Cultural Affairs in Taipei, members of the Losheng Self-Help Organization and the Youth Alliance for Losheng chanted "No landslides for Losheng" and "World heritage status," referring to landslides near the sanatorium that they believed were caused by construction of a railway depot on the new Xinzhuang metro line.

Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai, who was not in her office, said she welcomed the concern of the young students for their community and efforts to connect with international groups over the sanatorium, which was built in 1929 to house leprosy patients.

Their appeals touch on the human rights of Losheng's patients and the issue of cultural heritage, both of which are priorities for the council, Lung said, adding that she will instruct relevant agencies to ensure the structural integrity of the historic building.

The activists also said they have been invited to participate in a forum in New York to discuss the UNESCO bid.

The forum, organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance -- a United Nations advisory organization, is part of efforts to have historic sanatoriums around the world listed on the UNESCO cultural heritage list, according to alliance members.

Experts, leprosy patients and activists from other countries,including Canada, Spain, Norway, Japan and Brazil, will alsoattend the forum.

To date, no leprosy institution has been named as a UNESCO world heritage site, but Asia is keen on such an initiative, said Lin Hsiu-peng, an alliance member.

The site is a slice of living history, as 100 patients are still residing there, Lin added.

In 2009, the council designated Losheng as a potential world heritage site because it has witnessed the development of politics, medicine, public health and human rights in Taiwan over the past decades.

However, activists said the government has not made enough efforts to help preserve the site or take care of the patients.

(By Sabine Cheng and Kendra Lin)