Activists collected more than 400 signatures in support of human rights yesterday to urge the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) to halt its planned transformation of a human rights park in Taipei.
A former military prison and court where hundreds of political prisoners were detained or put on trial during the White Terror, the Jingmei Military Detention Center in Taipei was turned into a human rights memorial featuring exhibitions of Taiwan’s democracy movement, prison cells and former military courtrooms in 2007.
However, the CCA changed the name of the park to “Jingmei Cultural Park” earlier this month and invited artistic groups to use the buildings as offices or performances halls, saying they would be allowed to alter the interior.
The plan was opposed by human rights groups and former political prisoners such as former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and former Examination Yuan president Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), who were once detained there.
“We’re not against having artistic groups there, but the groups must fit in with the human rights context and the past of this place,” said Tsao Chin-jung (曹欽榮), a representative from the Truth and Reconciliation Association.
He said the CCA should halt the selection process to find artistic groups to take over the former detention center and push for legislation to protect human rights sites across the country, running them as museums.
“In Europe, former Nazi concentration camps are well maintained and there are all kinds of government-sponsored or privately organized educational programs related to these places because there are laws regarding maintenance and operation of [the] sites,” Tsao said. “We need legislation just like that.”
Chen Chung-tung (陳中統), a political prisoner who was jailed for 10 years at the former Jingmei Military Detention Center, said the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial was an important place for thousands of ex-political prisoners and their relatives.
“It’s also an important part of Taiwan’s history — it should not be destroyed,” he said.
Lawmakers from both the Democratic Progressive Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) great grandson Demos Chiang (蔣友柏), more than 180 former political prisoners and 26 civic groups were among those who signed a petition in support of the activists’ demand.
After meeting with the activists, the CCA released a statement saying that it would “be more cautious in selecting which artistic groups could use the Jingmei Park area,” and hold a public hearing next week, but refused to halt the plan.