Fri, Jan 29, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Culture chief sorry over art dispute at human rights park

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) Minister Emile Sheng (盛治仁) yesterday apologized to political victims, their families and artist Yu Wen-fu (游文富) over the controversy arising from the council's public art exhibition at the Jingmei Human Rights Culture Park.

“On behalf of the CCA, I would like to offer my apologies to the political victims and their families,” Sheng told a press conference. “If we had asked for more public input and had been more careful and considerate, we would not have organized the exhibition at such a sensitive location.”

“There was no political motive behind the display of these artworks, and we did not expect it to cause controversy,” he said.

The public art installation opened at the Jingmei Park last month to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident. The Kaohsiung Incident refers to the mass demonstration in 1979 against the authoritarian rule of the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime that later turned violent. Leaders of the demonstration, including former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), were arrested and prosecuted for crimes against the state.

The Jingmei Human Rights Culture Park was selected as the site for the exhibition because it was the former site of a military prison where political dissidents were detained, tried and imprisoned.

However, an artwork by Yu displayed outside the cell where Wang Hsi-ling (汪希苓), former head of the Military Intelligence Bureau, stayed when he was placed under house arrest upset Shih’s wife, Chen Chia-chun (陳嘉君), who said the artwork sought to glorify Wang.

Wang was placed under house arrest for ordering the 1984 assassination of Taiwanese-American writer Henry Liu (劉宜良) at his home in San Francisco after Liu wrote a biography critical of then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). Wang was arrested after international pressure on the KMT to take action.

Chen first attacked the artwork last month when the exhibition opened, and then spread red paint on the work earlier this month.

It was not the first time that the council's handling of the former military prison had caused controversy.

Last year, its plan to drop the term “human rights” from the park’s name and rename it a “culture park” also drew strong criticism. The council later compromised by calling it a “human rights culture park.”

Asked by reporters whether the council would consider turning the park back into a human rights memorial in the future after all the controversy surrounding it, Sheng said it could be an option.

“We plan to hold public hearings to hear more opinions, look more into the history that the site represents and then carefully plan the future of the park,” he said.

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