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More talks needed to list sanatorium as historic site: culture minister

2012/05/30 20:22:38

Taipei, May 30 (CNA) Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai said Wednesday that more cross-departmental negotiations will be needed in order for Taiwan's first sanatorium for leprosy patients to be designated as a national historic site.

At a legislative session to report on the preservation of the Losheng Sanatorium, Lung noted that a cultural asset evaluation committee under the New Taipei city government ruled in 2009 that the sanatorium qualifies as a historic building and cultural landmark but not as a historic site.

"More negotiations would be needed before government officials like us would be able to overthrow a decision made by professionals," said Lung.

She was responding to remarks by ruling Kuomintang Legislator Chen Pi-han that the Ministry of Culture should quickly clarify whether the sanatorium qualifies as a national historic site.

Local activists and students have urged the Ministry of Culture to designate the sanatorium, built in the 1930s to segregate leprosy patients from society, as a national historic site, which they believe will help with its preservation.

Chen suggested that the Taipei Rapid Transit Corp. (TRTC) should be made to allocate NT$10 million (US$336,405) per year of the revenue it collects from its planned Xinzhuang line to the preservation of what remains of the sanatorium.

She said the idea of giving money back to the sanatorium is "reasonable" as it has not benefited from the locating of the MRT line near its premises.

Action to preserve the sanatorium has been underway since 2004, when the transit company made plans to encroach on the site to build a rail depot for the system's planned Xinzhuang line.

Activists have blamed the line's construction for causing land collapses near the sanatorium, which they say have led to cracks in the walls of the facility's structures and sink holes appearing in its grounds.

Meanwhile, in response to a question from opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Shu-fen on whether Lung will keep the promises she made to the sanatorium's residents during a visit she made on May 27, Lung said that "I will keep my promises on the importance of the sanatorium and on its repair and reuse."

She said her ministry has already asked the TRTC to consider immediately repairing collapsed roofs of buildings at the sanatorium and has held talks with the Department of Health (DOH) on turning the sanatorium into a medical museum.

Lung said her ministry, the TRTC, the DOH and the New Taipei city government's Cultural Affairs Department have reached "a certain level of consensus" on the preservation of the site.

Lung said Losheng is very worthy of preservation because it not only witnessed the development of Taiwan's medical history, but also stands as a record of the country's human rights history.

Built in the 1930s, its buildings are also important in terms of Taiwan's architectural history, said Lung, adding that the site is also important as it is witness to how students have become involved in the democratic movements in the country.

Meanwhile, Lin Ching-feng, chief of the sanatorium and a DOH official, said that even though the transit company has given assurances about the safety of its construction work, residents still living at the sanatorium are concerned about their safety. A total of 205 people still live there.

(By Christie Chen)