Small-scale protests against the Taipei City Government’s handling of urban renewal projects marred the award ceremony of the Taipei Culture Award yesterday, with protesters urging the city government to pay more attention to housing justice in dealing with controversial cases such as the preservation of the Losheng Sanatorium and the urban renewal project in Shihlin District (士林).
Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs yesterday presented the Taipei Culture Award to urban planning activist John Liu (劉可強) and film director Doze Niu (鈕承澤) for their contributions to the preservation of Taipei’s traditions and promotion of the city’s culture through innovative measures.
Liu, an urban planning professor at National Taiwan University, is the mastermind behind reconstruction projects for some of the city’s historical buildings and sites, including Treasure Hill Village (寶藏巖) and Wistaria House (紫藤廬). He also leads an urban design foundation and takes part in various urban reform projects that include the controversial Losheng Sanatorium case.
The other recipient, Niu, is a well-known actor and director in Taiwan who gained fame with his two box office hits: Monga (艋舺) and Love (愛).
Describing Liu and Niu as “practitioners of cultural movements in Taipei,” Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) praised Liu for transforming Taipei’s landscape through urban reform, while lauding Niu for documenting the city’s charm and raising its international profile with his popular movies.
However, the award ceremony was interrupted several times by protesters, with various activists of the Losheng Sanatorium preservation movement waving banners and shouting “Save Losheng Sanatorium” and “Don’t be a culture murderer” while Hau gave his speech in the reception at Taipei Zhongshan Hall.
“The Control Yuan’s investigation has confirmed that the sanatorium site is not a suitable site on which to build an MRT maintenance depot. As Mayor Hau said, it is crucial to preserve a city’s history and culture, and so we come here today to urge him to save the historical Losheng Sanatiroum,” said one of the protesters, surnamed Wu (巫), after police escorted the activists from the ceremony.
Losheng Sanatorium was completed in the 1930s on a hill in Sinjhuang District (新莊), New Taipei City (新北市), to isolate people with leprosy, since it was believed to be a contagious and incurable disease at the time.
Before the ceremony began, three advocates for the stalled urban renewal project in Shihlin District, known as Wenlin Yuan (文林苑) project, also launched a small protest outside the ceremony, shouting “save Wenlin Yuan” as Hau entered the building.
The urban renewal project is stalled due to opposition from the Wang (王) family, whose houses were torn down by the city government this year to facilitate the approved project. The family and their supporters have been occupying the construction site and refuse to leave.
Even the band Kao Chiu Ching (拷秋勤), who were invited to perform at the ceremony independent of the protests, called on the city government during their performance “not to sacrifice housing justice over any urban renewal project.”
Liu, in his award acceptance speech, also urged the city government to address the controversial urban renewal projects.
“The city government must take a stance on urban renewal and exercise its authority to resolve the disputes while bearing social justice in mind ... I want to encourage Mayor Hau to take a more positive, active role in handling the issues,” he said.