Activists called for greater attention to the preservation of Losheng (Happy Family) Sanatorium yesterday, urging the Council of Cultural Affairs to support a campaign to have the building in New Taipei City (新北市) listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
At a protest in front of the council in Taipei, members of the Losheng Self-Help Organization and the Youth Alliance for Losheng chanted: “No landslides at Losheng” and “World heritage status,” referring to landslides near the sanatorium that they believe were caused by construction of a railway depot on the Taipei’s MRT metropolitan railway system’s new Xinzhuang line.
Council of Cultural Affairs Minister Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), who was not in her office, said she welcomed the students’ concern about their community and their efforts to connect with international groups over the sanatorium, which was built in 1929 to house leprosy patients.
Their appeals touch on the human rights of Losheng’s patients and the issue of cultural heritage, both of which are priorities for the council, Lung said.
She added that she would instruct the relevant agencies to ensure the structural integrity of the historic building.
The activists said they have been invited to participate in a forum in New York to discuss the UNESCO bid.
The forum, organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance — a UN advisory organization — is part of efforts to have historic sanatoriums around the world listed on the UNESCO cultural heritage list, alliance members said.
Experts, leprosy patients and activists from other countries, including Canada, Spain, Norway, Japan and Brazil, will also attend the forum.
To date, no leprosy institution has been named as a UNESCO world heritage site, but Asia is keen on such an initiative, said Lin Hsiu-peng (林秀芃), an alliance member. The site is a slice of living history, as 100 patients are still residing there, Lin added.
In 2009, the council designated Losheng as a potential world heritage site because it has stood through developments in democracy, medicine, public health and human rights over the past decades.
However, activists said the government has not worked hard enough to preserve the site and take care of the patients.