Residents of Taitung County yesterday vowed to take to the streets of Taipei to protest delays in returning cultural artefacts that had been excavated from the Peinan geological site in eastern Taitung County.
They accused the Ministry of Education of "conniving" with National Taiwan University (NTU) to "commandeer" the historic artefacts.
Chanting "returning remains, developing tourism" and "Taida [abbreviation for NTU in Mandarin] bully, Taitung angry," three members of the Taitung Roaring Alliance of Reclaiming Peinan Remains (台東討壺怒吼聯盟), accompanied by lawmakers, yesterday held a press conference in the legislative complex to ask NTU to return the remains to the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung.
"In addition to mobilizing people from Taitung living in Taipei, we have chartered two airplanes and rented buses to bring in more people from home for the protest," said Lin Yen-hung (林炎煌), convenor of the alliance. "We are mobilizing our people to chastise NTU, not to beg them."
Before they came to Taipei yesterday, alliance members invited six Aboriginal chiefs to preside over a protest meeting and ancestor-worship ceremony in Taitung on Monday to bestow good luck on them for their trip to Taipei.
Chan Cher (
"While the NTU is returning the first batch of remains today [Tuesday,] it should not be too difficult for them to return the rest," Chan said. "However, NTU said that they cannot return everything until 2008 and in four shipments. I find this arrangement unacceptable."
Echoing Chan's opinion, the alliance's deputy chief commander Ho Shew-song (
"Professor Lien Chao-mei (
Lien is an NTU anthropology professor who was in charge of the excavation and has studied the remains since they were discovered in 1980 when the Southern Cross-Island Highway was being built.
Although Lien has said that studying the remains is a time-consuming task, Ho challenged her to present a report of her findings as proof.
Ho Shen-wu (
He said the details of when and how the remains will be returned are negotiable, as long as the anthropology department and the museum can reach an agreement on the matter.
Ho Shen-wu also explained why the remains are being returned in four shipments.
"It is a professional decision made by the department and the museum, taking into account the fact that it takes time, money, manpower and, most important of all, digitization to document and study the remains," he said.
In addition to emphasizing that NTU takes great pains to safeguard cultural assets, Ho Shen-wu called on the alliance to cancel today's protest.