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Kaohsiung city bureau demolishes culturally important property

2017/09/19 18:14:56

Photo courtesy of Wang Chi-wei (王繼維)

Kaohsiung, Sept. 19 (CNA) The Kaohsiung Water Resources Bureau has angered local people by demolishing a 90-year-old Japanese-style wooden police dormitory without first assessing the property's cultural value.

The bureau, which was blasted for not respecting cultural heritage, was accused Tuesday of "sneakily" demolishing the old dorm -- located close to the Kaohsiung City Police Department's Cishan Precinct -- the history of which is described in a tourism promotion brochure written by local history and culture groups.

Wang Chi-wei (王繼維), a member of local rock band Youth Banana, criticized the bureau's action as "sneaky" and a violation of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act.

The demolition without prior notification and communication is "unacceptable," said the culture and creativity advocate. Also, tearing down a historic building "has made culture-dominated tourism meaningless," he told CNA.

The Chinese cypress-constructed old dorm with black roof tiles was in good condition before it was torn down, Wang said, noting that senior citizens living in the neighborhood once told him that the building was built nearly 90 years ago.

The water bureau ordered the dorm to be demolished Monday to make space for people whose homes have been designated to be removed for a water drainage construction project. As machines were tearing the building apart, the noise alerted local residents and Wang, who was walking by and called the city's Bureau of Cultural Affairs to stop the demolition.

However, it was too late to keep the old dorm from being torn to pieces.

Lee Yu-min (李毓敏), head of the culture bureau's Culture Property Center, said that the incident happened because police and the water bureau were ignorant of the regulation that a cultural value assessment is required before buildings over 50 years old can be demolished.

"An internal review will be performed" in both the bureaus concerned, Lee said. Also, measures will be taken to strengthen awareness of the regulation, which was not written into the the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act until last year, when the act was revised.

The culture bureau said the new regulation was formed to protect properties with the potential of becoming cultural heritage sites.

Although the old dorm was not designated as a cultural heritage site, it should not have been dismantled before an assessment of its cultural value, the bureau said, suggesting a comprehensive review of the relevant administrative procedures.

Water Resources Bureau Deputy Director-General Han Jung-hua (韓榮華) said the bureau will "make up" the incomplete required administrative procedure for the demolition project. He did not elaborate.

A police officer at the Cishan Precinct who was unwilling to be named said that the demolished dorm was the former residence of the precinct's commissioner. It had been left empty for years because of the high cost for its renovation.

However, the precinct had cleaned the house regularly and operated access control, the policeman said.

(By Wang Shwu-fen, Chen Chi-fong and Elizabeth Hsu)
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