The Ministry of Culture said its planned “Taiwanese Trail of Democracy and Human Rights” project would stand witness to the nation’s ongoing implementation of transitional justice and would also provide future generations with lessons from the past.
The project stems from an initiative Minster of Culture Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) proposed in November last year when, as a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker, she said she hoped to emulate the Freedom Trail in Boston and link important historical sites on the path along the development of democracy and human rights in Taiwan.
Cheng’s aides said Cheng has always been interested in the preservation of sites that witnessed the development of Taiwan’s democracy and human rights, and “her dreams will guide the ministry’s policies in years to come [now that she is the minister of culture].”
The ministry said that over the past year, National Democracy and Human Rights Museum staff have been conducting on-site inspections of various historical landmarks, as well as researching historical files and housing records to better understand how sites related to the White Terror era are preserved.
The White Terror era refers to a period of repression that began after the 228 Incident in 1947, when an anti-government uprising was violently suppressed by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government, which later declared martial law and initiated purges.
Historians estimate that between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed during the crackdown.
Ministry officials said the museum is also looking into the geographical location and the history of these sites, as well as asking political victims or local elders the stories of the time. The museum has completed research and investigation for 45 locations.
Twenty-three of the 45 locations were in Taipei, ministry officials said, adding that the ministry would arrange the locations into categories, such as judgment area, transition, serving of sentence, execution squares, sites of historical events, and memorial sites.
Some of the buildings in the areas no longer exist — such as the Dongbenyuan Temple, which was used to interrogate and torture political prisoners, or the Martial Law Detention Center on Qingdao E Road — either due to deterioration or urban renewal projects, the ministry said.
Excluding sites related to the White Terror era that have already been designated as heritage sites or cultural assets, the ministry said it would help local governments register other White Terror-era related areas as cultural assets, such as Taipei’s Huashan Terminal that served as a transport point for political prisoners.
The Liuzhangli Public Cemetery, known as a burial site for many political victims in the White Terror era, last month was designated by the Taipei City Government as a cultural asset, ministry officials said, adding that it is “an important step in preserving historical sites in relation to the fight for human rights.”
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