Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Lo Sheng protesters hauled away

DEFENSIVE FORMATION Those opposing the start of an MRT project at the site sat on a circle of wooden beds. Inside the circle, others chained themselves to the ground

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A melee broke out yesterday morning when police forcibly removed supporters of the preservation of Lo Sheng Sanatorium as they were protesting new construction at the site.

Lo Sheng Sanatorium, located in Sinjhuang (新莊), Taipei County, was used to isolate thousands of people with Hansen's disease.

A plan to tear down buildings at the sanatorium in order to build a Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) maintenance depot has seen protests by Lo Sheng residents and preservationists over the past three years.

Democratic Progressive Party vice-presidential candidate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) apologized for policy mistakes on the issue in April and, while serving as premier, promised to help preserve 46 buildings at the sanatorium.

However, preservationists were disappointed as a final decision was announced at the end of May to preserve just 39 buildings, which did not include some that preservationists believe to have historical value.

Despite the opposition, the Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) decided to begin the construction of an underground tunnel to connect the Sinjhuang MRT line to the maintenance depot.

"We only wanted to work on the area near Lo Sheng's entrance. No buildings will be touched at this stage," said Fang Juang-lih (方壯勵), deputy director of DORTS' north project office.

However, preservationists opposed the construction work.

"The construction is the first step toward forced eviction," preservationist Huang Yung-kuang (黃詠光) told the more than 100 protesters who gathered at the site before police arrived.

Preservationists -- mostly college students -- began to gather at the sanatorium on Tuesday night after hearing about the construction work.

Before sunrise, protesters sat on wooden beds that had been placed upside-down in a circle to form a first line of defense.

Inside the circle, protesters chained themselves to stakes hammered into the ground as a second line of defense.

Protesters held torches between the two lines.

Around 260 police, including more than 20 SWAT officers, began to evict protesters at around 8am, police officials said.

With help from MRT construction workers, the police broke the beds, cut the chains and removed protesters by force.

As they were carried away, protesters shouted "Su Tseng-chang's promise is an empty one! Stop the construction!"

Some police officers also insulted protesters.

One police officer called a female protester "shameless," while in another incident, two policemen called Lo Sheng residents "people with a contagious dirty disease."

Most of the protesters were arrested but later dropped off at a location several kilometers away from Lo Sheng, an arrested protester said after returning to the sanatorium.

Meanwhile, Bureau of High Speed Rail Deputy Director Hsu Chun-yi (許俊逸) confirmed yesterday that the airport railway would not be completed until 2011 because of difficulties encountered in planning.

"The issues include changes in urban zoning plans, difficulties encounterd in obtaining land for construction and an underground section in Dayuan Township (大園) in Taoyuan County," he said.

Additional reporting by Shelley Shan

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