Losheng Sanatorium preservation activists, the Austronesian Community College (ANCC) and independent journalist Carol Chang (張桂越) were honored with the first Taiwan Peace Award by the Taiwan Grassroots Alliance for Peace (TGAP) yesterday.
“It took us more than half a year to decide who should receive this award,” TGAP chairman Chen Chien-fu (陳建甫) said at the beginning of the award ceremony in Taipei. “We were looking for candidates who have a global vision, care for the society and take action to change society through peaceful means.”
He added that besides the group and individual awards, the alliance had added a category for the younger generation to encourage them to become socially active.
For the new category, the five members on the panel of judges considered the Youth Alliance for Losheng the best candidate.
“I’d say the young Losheng activists are the most insistent youth social group,” said Huang Mo (黃默), a political science professor at Soochow University who served as one of the judges. “They insist on pursuing every last bit of social justice in our society, they never give up, they’re the younger generation with ideas, appreciation, and a sense of justice.”
Founded nearly four years ago, members of the alliance put a lot of effort into preserving the Losheng Sanatorium, a Taipei County sanatorium complex built during the Japanese colonial period to isolate patients with Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy). The government has selected the sanatorium campus as the site of a Mass Rapid Transit maintenance depot and originally planned to flatten the entire sanatorium.
After years of debates, protests, and demonstrations, the government finally decided to preserve part of it as a historic site.
“We don’t really deserve this award, it should be presented to the elder Losheng residents who have been insisting on their right to live as they wish since around 10 years ago, before outsiders like us joined their struggle,” alliance member Ho Hsin-chieh (何欣潔) said in a pre-recorded video as she could not attend the ceremony because of personal reasons.
“The entire Losheng campaign should inspire the public that everyone — not just the powerful or the rich — can make a difference if they care to make an effort,” she said.
Chang, on the other hand, received the award for efforts to raise public awareness on international refugee issues, wars and conflicts through documentaries and news reports.
Chang lived in the Balkans for seven years, recording frontline scenes of wars and ethnic conflicts. She has also shot a documentary on the work of agriculture teams in Africa.
“I’m embarrassed to accept this honor,” Chang said. “I’m a journalist and I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Meanwhile, the ANCC was selected for “efforts to search for the roots of Taiwanese Aborigines, to pass on the culture and create a peaceful community,” said Chen Li-man (陳麗曼), another judge and chairwoman of the National Union of Taiwan Women’s Associations.
The ANCC, located in Taitung County, has successfully helped to preserve and revive a traditional local Amis sampan contest and organized local Aborigines to join together in a campaign against a development project that may harm the local ecosystem.
“A community college should not be only an educational institution,” ANCC founder Liu Chiung-hsi (劉炯錫) said.