Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Living in fear

In the second of a two part series on Losheng, the ‘Taipei Times’ examines what it is like for aged residents to live in constant fear that their homes will be torn down to make way for an MRT train maintenance depot

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

“Thousands of people surrounded the main gate [of Losheng]. They shouted the slogan through speakers: ‘The MRT can’t run if Losheng doesn’t move,’” Chen recalls.

Construction of the maintenance depot resumed in 2008.

Remembered as one of the movement’s fearless leaders, Lu Te-chang (呂德昌) was said to be heartbroken after the demolition and passed away in 2011. Before he died, Lu was often seen wandering through the sanatorium, looking for his demolished home, distraught and seeming lost.

Depot blues

The Sinjhuang MRT Line launched services last January, extending from Daqiaotou Station in Taipei to Fu Jen University Station in New Taipei City. In December, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) jointly announced that the MRT line would be in full operation this year, while the maintenance depot remains unfinished. It was exactly like the proposal to run partial operation made by the preservationists and repeatedly dismissed as technically unfeasible by Taipei City’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) a few years ago.

“At that moment, it was clear that the declaration that ‘the MRT can’t run if Losheng doesn’t move’ was a blatant lie,” Lee says.

Wang’s prediction unfortunately came true. Inside the sanatorium and at the Huilung Hospital, cracks have appeared on walls, and sinkholes on the grounds of the complex have grown wider, indicating that landslides occurred soon after construction started in 2009. Buildings including I Yuan (怡園), a facility used to house patients with mental disorders and now the residency of Lan and 92-year-old Lin Chueh (林卻), have repeatedly cracked and been re-cemented. Columns inside the Buddhist shrine are slanted, while the nearby library was recently rebuilt due to structural damage.

After several suspensions, construction was resumed last month despite the fact that DORTS has yet to solve the landslide issue.

Ongoing fight

Today, only one fourth of the original sanatorium complex remains standing, eroded and fenced in. Nearby at the prefabricated sheds, the aged residents carry out daily chores, seemingly oblivious to the sound of the rumbling heavy machinery in full operation on the construction site.

Years of struggle have taken its toll, and the number of residents is rapidly dwindling.

“For decades, we have lived in fear. It saddens me to think that when I first served as the president [of the self-help association], there were over 400 of us. Now only 186 remain,” says Lee, who is the honorary chairman of Losheng’s self-help association.

For the remaining campaigners, each protest becomes an exhausting task to tackle. To wheelchair-bound residents like Chen, a day on the street means no water intake because going to the toilet is difficult for some. Some have to rely on painkillers to get through the day, and fewer people are physically capable of joining the fight. But they persist.

“I have seen and lived through inhumanity. But people are forgetful. Losheng needs to stay to remind people not to repeat the same mistake,” Tang says.

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