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Under-fire minister defends stance on human rights museum

2012/05/30 16:33:36

Taipei, May 30 (CNA) Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai said Wednesday that decision makers should not impose their interpretations of history on a human rights museum, after opposition lawmakers accused her of lacking the courage to reveal her thoughts on historical events.

The minister left her interpellation platform and returned to her seat at a legislative session after opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang insisted on calling her "the most shameless government official" despite her protest against his language choice.

Lung had been asked to report on the preservation of Losheng Sanatorium, Taiwan's first sanatorium for leprosy patients, and the progress in establishing a national human rights museum.

Tuan attacked Lung after several opposition lawmakers questioned her about the late President Chiang Kai-shek's responsibility for the 228 Incident and whether she would allow such a museum to "truthfully" represent Chiang's role in history.

The 228 Incident was an anti-government uprising that began Feb. 27, 1947 and was brutally suppressed by Chiang's Kuomintang (KMT) government.

The minister responded to the questions by saying that she respects different interpretations of history, but thinks history "should not be simplified" and that a consensus should be reached through public discussion.

"What to include in a museum is a professional decision and should not be decided by a minister," Lung said.

Lung told reporters during a break in the session that she thinks "it is a matter of principle."

"If a writer becomes a decision maker and imposes her values on a human rights museum, I don't think that is the right thing to do," said Lung, a former essayist and cultural critic known for her poignant and critical essays on Taiwan's democracy.

She said she does not think she should express her personal views about Chiang, the 228 Incident or the ensuing White Terror period, which saw thousands arrested and killed by the KMT, because "Lung Ying-tai's views are not important."

She said the human rights museum should be "an empty bottle," which should not be filled by those with administrative power in their hands.

Instead, she said, it should follow a professional procedure, with rigorous communication with victims, history scholars and people from different parts of society who "hold completely opposite views."

The planned museum includes a 3.2 hectare cultural park in Taipei that used to serve as a center for detaining, prosecuting and trying political prisoners during the White Terror era, and a 32 hectare cultural park on Taiwan's outlying Green Island that used to serve as a prison for Taiwan's prisoners of conscience.

(By Christie Chen)