Some 30 advocates for the rights of Hansen's Disease sufferers staged a silent sit-in in front of the legislature yesterday, urging lawmakers to pass the Hansen's Disease compensation bill today -- the final day the enactment can be discussed before the legislature goes into recess tomorrow.
Today "is the last chance for the bill to be put to a vote in the legislature," Taiwanese Association for Human Rights secretary-general Lin Shu-ya (
Lin said that as of yesterday, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) was the only caucus that had yet to endorse the bill after cross-party talks, adding that the bill could be stalled as a result.
Lin said the bill would guarantee that residents of Losheng Sanatorium can continue to reside at Losheng and grant them the right to seek government action against discrimination of those suffering from Hansen's, which is also known as leprosy.
The bill would also require the government to apologize for past discrimination of Hansen's patients and would entitle those who were quarantined or otherwise mistreated by the government to compensation, Lin said.
The Losheng sanatorium in Sinjhuang (
A controversy over the compound's future arose after the Taipei City and Taipei County governments began demolishing it to make way for the Sinjhuang MRT line. Activists have blocked construction for cultural and historical reasons, as well as for the benefit of the facility's residents.
The controversy has also highlighted the struggle for compensation for formerly quarantined patients.
As a result, six versions of a bill were proposed concerning the rights of Hansen's sufferers. They proposed different measures for compensation, lifelong health care and rehabilitation.
The final draft law would require the government to designate the sanatorium as a national historical site.
Legislators across party lines held the a final negotiation session on Tuesday, during which the TSU insisted on introducing a clause prohibiting the government from forcefully removing the patients from the facility.
The bill ranked 74th on the legislative agenda for this week and cannot be put to a vote until all legislative caucuses have endorsed it.
If it fails to pass the third reading today, it must go through the whole legislative procedure again, including committee reviews and cross-party negotiations, which could delay the bill's passage for months.
"How long will these people -- many of whom are now in their 80s -- have to wait before the bill is passed? It would be meaningless for us to pass it after they pass away," said lawyer Cheng Wen-lung (
In response, the TSU yesterday said the party would insist on passing the bill in a form that preserves "one hundred percent of the bill's original spirit."
"This matter concerns transitional justice -- and justice should not be discounted," said Su Wei-shuo (
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