Writers and prominent literary figures accused Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) of making political appointments as executives to head the National Museum of Taiwan Literature (NMTL), after the museum’s new deputy director took up the position on Wednesday.
Lung appointed the museum’s director and deputy director, but neither of them has a related academic background, nor authentic connections to Taiwanese literature studies, they said.
The move led prominent figures in the nation’s literary circles to charge that the museum’s mission statement has been abandoned to become a haven for political appointees and the museum has been turned into Lung’s “personal fiefdom.”
National Museum of Taiwan Literature deputy director Hsiao Shu-chen (蕭淑貞) assumed his position this week, while the museum’s director, Weng Chih-tsung (翁誌聰), took up his position in January.
Weng has a doctorate in Chinese literature from the Chu Hai College of Higher Education in Hong Kong and was a senior executive officer of the ministry’s Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development.
Hsiao, with an academic background in library information studies, was Weng’s subordinate at the bureau, responsible for the popular music division.
Yang Tsui (楊翠), a prominent Taiwanese literature academic, said the appointment of Weng and Hsiao is a slap in the face of the literary community and shows that the museum has lost its direction.
“It shows that this government looks down on Taiwanese literature. There are many people in the literary community with years of administrative experience, but Lung does not want them in charge of the NMTL,” said Yang, whose grandfather is Yang Kui (楊逵), a leading Taiwanese writer best known for two of his books, The Newspaper Boy (送報伕) and The Indomitable Rose (壓不扁的玫瑰花).
When Weng took up his post earlier this year, it stirred up a storm of protest from the literary community. A petition campaign was started at the time to rebuke Lung and critics said that Weng is a stranger to the field of Taiwanese literature, and his appointment was totally inappropriate.
In response, Weng said on Friday that he had to find a new assistant because the museum’s former deputy director had reached retirement age.
“Hsiao was chosen because we worked well together at the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry of Development,” he said.
“When I started in the director’s post I already thought she would be suitable as deputy director. The decision was made after long and serious considerations,” Weng added.
Laiho Culture Foundation chief executive officer Chou Fu-i (周馥儀) said Hsiao’s appointment is extremely questionable because she has no connection to Taiwanese literature.
“We also want to ask Weng, who has now been the museum’s director for half a year, what work programs he has undertaken and what results he has achieved,” she said.
Yang Tsui said one of the two top posts at the museum had always been filled by someone from the Taiwanese literary community, but even if the occupants of these positions are not from the literary community, they should provide evidence of their professional work to convince people that they are suitable for the jobs.
“However, since becoming the director, Weng’s policies and programs still cannot persuade people as to his professionalism and expertise on Taiwanese literature,” she said.
“The National Museum of Taiwan Literature is an important representation and symbol of Taiwanese culture and literature. However, it has now veered far away from Taiwanese literature,” Yang Tsui added.
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