Dozens of activists confronted police at two historic warehouses at the Port of Keelung yesterday, in an effort to stop the demolition of the warehouses which was planned for yesterday. The protest ended peacefully.
The warehouses at the port’s West 2 and West 3 wharves were built 80 years ago and have been described as “Taiwan’s mouth” because the port once served as the only access point for entering Taiwan during the 1940s and 1950s.
However, the Keelung City Government had planned for the warehouses to be torn down yesterday to make way for a customer service center, a modern port building and for other uses in an urban renewal development project.
Several people created a fan page on Facebook against the demolition of the warehouses and also established the C23 Action Alliance, which gathered dozens of activists at the warehouses yesterday morning, in spite of rain and low temperatures, to protest against the demolition.
They held signs that read: “Preserve the West 2 and West 3 warehouses for Keelung residents” and “Not only urban renewal, but also historic preservation.”
As well as the activists, Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai (黃景泰), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Deputy Secretary-General Lin You-chang (林右昌), People First Party (PFP) prospective candidate for Keelung mayor Wu Wu-ming (吳武明) and Keelung City Councilor Shy Shyh-ming (施世明) also arrived to show their support.
Drilling sounds were heard coming from inside the warehouses at one point, as the activists were voicing their demands outside, prompting some activists to start banging on the iron gates and call out: “Stop operations at once,” while some even tried to climb over the gates — leading to police officers raising shields to block them from climbing over.
The confrontation ceased after an employee of Taiwan International Ports Corp’s Port of Keelung management office explained to the crowd that the drilling was part of a conduit operation and nothing to do with the demolition of the warehouses.
After making a telephone call to Keelung Harbor Bureau general manager Tsai Ting-yi (蔡丁義), Huang told the crowd that the warehouses would not be torn down before tomorrow and that he would arrange a meeting between the company, historical and cultural workers, and the Keelung City Council to discuss the issue.
Local painter Wang Chieh (王傑) said the city government never asked the opinion of local cultural workers or artists, and showed complete disrespect to specialists and local residents.
Wang said the city government claims that it wants to boost tourism and the local economy, but asked what there would be to boost if rich cultural assets are destroyed.
Chang Chih-hao (張之豪) of the action alliance said the warehouses witnessed Taiwanese heading to Japan to study or carry out commercial activities during the Japanese colonial period and also when hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese returned after the end of World War II.
The warehouses are still in good condition and they should be seen as living antiques, Chang said, adding he hoped the warehouses could be used as a space for the cultural and creative industry, for holding exhibitions or hosting a museum on immigration, becoming a new cultural landmark in the city.