Local activists yesterday urged the government to list the country’s first hospital for leprosy patients as a national historic site, after returning from a world forum they said expressed support for the preservation of the sanatorium.
International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA) Taiwan director-general Chang Yun-ming (張雲明) urged Council for Cultural Affairs Minister Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) to designate Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium, built in the 1930s in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sinjhuang District (新莊) to segregate leprosy patients from society, as a national historic site.
It also asked the government to monitor the construction of a nearby metrorail line to stop the land around the old facility from being further eroded.
“There has already been too much damage done, and the government needs to immediately intervene to stop the land from collapsing, restore the site and protect this precious cultural asset,” said Lin Hsiu-peng, another member of the group.
IDEA Taiwan, established in 2007, aims to protect the rights of leprosy sufferers.
Local activists have been fighting to preserve the sanatorium since 2004, when the Taipei MRT made plans to encroach on the site to build a railway depot for the planned Xinzhuang line.
They blame the line’s construction for causing land collapses near the sanatorium, which they say have led to cracks in the walls of the facility’s structures and sinkholes in its grounds.
Members of IDEA Taiwan and the Losheng Self-Help Organization traveled to New York to participate in an international forum from May 7 to Friday last week. The forum called for the listing of historic sanatoriums around the world as UNESCO cultural heritage sites.
A coalition was established after the forum by representatives from countries around the world to move the goal forward, the activists said.
They urged the Ministry of Culture, which will be inaugurated on May 21, to step up its preservation of the sanatorium and make efforts to list it as Taiwan’s first UNESCO cultural heritage site.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), who attended the press conference, said that if the Ministry of Culture is concerned about preserving the history and culture of Losheng, it should also make efforts to preserve the site.
“If the land collapses, how will the cultural monument survive?” Yu said, adding: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”