Aboriginal activists and academics yesterday slammed Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) for acting arbitrarily and without respect for history after a court overturned a county government decision to demolish a monument to “Takasago” soldiers in the Japanese army.
“Takasago volunteers” refer to Taiwanese Aborigines drafted by the Japanese colonial government in the 1940s to serve in the Imperial Army in Southeast Asia.
No one knows exactly how many people were drafted, but the commonly accepted estimate is around 30,000.
To commemorate their ancestors who died as Takasago volunteers, Atayal Aborigines in Wulai Township (烏來), Taipei County, formed a Takasago Volunteer Memorial Association to build a group of monuments to the soldiers in 1992. The monuments were later moved to another location in Wulai in 2006.
Because the plaques on the monuments were written in Japanese and the Atayal soldiers were described as brave men, the Chinese-language China Times ran a story in February 2006 criticizing the monuments for praising Japanese imperialism.
Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), who is half Atayal, also condemned the monuments and the Taipei County Government quickly tore most of them down despite protests from local Atayals.
Afterward, Atayal activists filed a lawsuit against the county government. That was three years ago.
The Taipei High Administrative Court on Tuesday handed down its final ruling, which overturned the county government’s decision to demolish the monuments. The court made the decision based on the fact that the Takasago Volunteers Memorial Foundation had completed the legal procedure required by the county government to construct the monuments and that the county government did not hold public hearings before ordering the demolition.
“The whole incident happened because of the manipulation of two politicians and a malicious media group,” Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人), an assistant research fellow in Taiwanese history at Academia Sinica, told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
“I want to tell Chou Hsi-wei that issues relating to different ethnic groups — especially minorities — are very sensitive,” Wu said.
Wu said that while Chou, a descendant of Mainlanders who escaped to Taiwan after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party, considered the Japanese to be enemies because of their invasion of China, “many people born in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period have a different memory and impression of the Japanese.”
“You should always respect other people if they have a completely different memory of history,” he said. “Only outside colonialists would try to practice forced assimilation.”
Hsueh Chin-feng (薛欽峰), the lawyer representing the Takasago memorial group, said that they would ask for compensation and restoration of the monuments.
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