The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) yesterday promised to temporarily suspend the demolition of the Huaguang Community (華光社區) in Taipei while the city government evaluates the remains of the former Taihoku Prison at the site.
“We will patiently wait and suspend the demolition work while the city reviews whether the remains of the former prison have historic value,” ministry official Lu Che-ko (盧哲科) told a press conference at the legislature in Taipei.
At the press conference, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) and members of the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP) voiced their concerns over historic relics at the site.
A Taipei City Government Cultural Assets Review Committee meeting about the site is scheduled to be held on Monday.
“Several buildings in the community have temporarily been designated historic by the Taipei City Government, therefore the MOJ should stop its demolition work until the review committee comes to a final decision,” Yao said. “I would propose preserving not only the historic buildings, but also the green areas, which could be connected to neighborhoods around Yongkang Street and National Taiwan Normal University to make it an area of interest to tourists, with culture and a green belt.”
“We’ve always stayed in touch with Taipei’s Department of Cultural Affairs to make sure our demolitions do not harm historic buildings or trees,” Lu replied.
TAUP chairman Lu Chung-chin (呂宗津), an electrical engineering professor at National Tsing Hua University, said that preserving historical assets is far more important than development.
“The former Taihoku Prison bears witness to the struggles of Taiwanese during the Japanese colonial period,” said Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽), emeritus professor at Chang Jung Christian University’s Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies. “This is the prison in which many people were jailed — including Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) who led the resistance movement.”
Huaguang Community was once dormitories for prison employees during the Japanese colonial period. Although most of the prison complex was torn down, many individual buildings still stand.
When refugees and troops fled to Taiwan with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime in 1949, many were unofficially allowed to take up residence in the area.
However, a decade ago the government decided to develop the area into a financial and commercial district, and the ministry, which took over ownership of the land from the Japanese colonial government, filed lawsuits against the residents.