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Warehouse overcrowding prompts plan to clear some presidential gifts

2017/03/19 21:43:04

Taipei, March 19 (CNA) Tormented by the hundreds of thousands of presidential and vice presidential records and artifacts -- including over 12,000 gift items -- that are packing its warehouse, the national archive has proposed a revision of the relevant regulations so that some can be cleared to create more storage space.

Academia Historica, which is tasked with managing presidential and vice presidential records and artifacts, said Sunday that it has drafted a revision to the Act Governing the Administration of Presidential and Vice Presidential Records and Artifacts, promulgated in January 2004.

The amendment bill, which is pending legislative review, proposes that presidential and vice presidential gifts "be classified and then be written off from the inventory for disposal or given away to museums, other government units or charity organizations," said Academia Historica.

The existing act stipulates that gifts received by the president and vice president during their tenures have to be turned over to the national archive if they are worth over NT$3,000 (US$98).

Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) received approximately 6,000 gift items during his eight-year tenure from 2008 to 2016, and his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), got some 4,000, said Hsu Hsiu-jung (許秀容), chief of Academia Historica's collection division.

Event incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had received 117 items of gifts within 42 days of taking office on May 20, 2016, the official added.

Tsai's gifts include a painting of an eagle named after herself, a painting of her pet cat and an air cleaning machine for the cat-loving president, Hsu said, noting that those gifts are currently stored at Academia Historica's warehouse.

Some of the gifts cannot be stored for a long period of time because they will decay naturally as time passes. In that situation, the cost of preserving them will be higher than the benefit of keeping such a collection, Hsu explained.

A leopard fur Ma Ying-jeou received from Swaziland is an item that Hsu said is beyond her institute's professional ability to manage for a long time.

As a result, there should be regulations that allow Academic Historica to determine whether presidential and vice presidential gift items are worthy of long-term storage. If not, the national archive should have the right to dispose of such objects, Hsu said.

While all the gifts are part of national properties, they are not allowed to be put on sale but can be given to relevant museums for exhibition or collection, or to the groups of socially disadvantaged or governmental units that may have use of them.

But if seriously damaged, such items will be destroyed, Hsu said, referring to the key content of the amendment bill.

(By Ku Chuan and Elizabeth Hsu)