Wed, May 17, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Court rules against COSWAS over disputed building

HERITAGE SITE:The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the couple who bought the building that the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters has been using as a base

By Wen Yu-te and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Members of the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters stand outside the Supreme Court in Taipei yesterday, calling on the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs to acquire the Wenmeng Building, where the collective is based.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a ruling by the Taiwan High Court on the ownership of a building in Taipei’s Datong District (大同), a former brothel built during the Japanese colonial era.

The nation’s top court sided with Liu Shun-fa (劉順發) and Lin Li-ping (林麗萍) — a couple who in March 2011 bought the Wenmeng Building (文萌樓) — over the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (日日春關懷互助協會, COSWAS) rights group.

The group had based its operations in the building, campaigning to make it a heritage site after the abolition of prostitution in the 1990s.

The building was listed as a historical site in 2006 for its Japanese-style Baroque architecture.

The couple in March 2011 purchased the structure for NT$3.3 million (US$109,580 at the current exchange rate) and promptly filed a lawsuit against the group, who they said was illegally occupying the premises.

The group claimed that it had a rental contract with the building’s previous owners, but was unable to provide documentation of such an agreement, resulting in all courts ruling in favor of the couple.

COSWAS secretary Kuo Pei-yu (郭姵妤) said that the final verdict had empowered Lin to evict the collective from the building, which the group had taken care of for many years.

Kuo criticized the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs, saying that it failed to take action on the matter over the past six years, adding that, as the collective is on the verge of eviction, the department should more actively protect cultural heritage sites.

Liu and Lin bought the property expressly for commercial purposes, endangering the heritage site’s value, the group said, calling on the department to expropriate the building for public use.

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