The Losheng Self-Help Association and family members of people with Hansen’s disease yesterday urged the government to address the history of leprosy patients in Taiwan after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized for the Japanese government’s past segregation policy.
Abe last month apologized to families of former Hansen’s disease patients after the Japanese government said it would not appeal a Kumamoto District court ruling ordering it to pay compensation of more than ￥370 million (US$3.5 million) to the families.
Abe’s approach provides an example of what the Taiwanese government could do to improve the treatment of Hansen’s disease patients, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) told a news conference in Taipei.
Photo: Hsieh Chun-lin, Taipei Times
New Taipei City’s Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium (樂生療養院), where many Hansen’s disease patients have been treated since the Japanese colonial period, gained public attention in the 2000s due to a government plan to demolish it to make way for a new MRT station, she said.
Today, the MRT station is operational and the sanatorium houses more than 100 residents, she said.
While the legislature in 2008 passed the Rights Protection and Compensation for Hansen’s Disease Patients Act (漢生病病患人權保障及補償條例), the government should also consider taking steps to preserve the history of Hansen’s disease patients, she said.
A Losheng resident surnamed Chu (朱) said she was relocated to the sanatorium during the Japanese colonial period.
Nobody wanted her as a child, but the sanatorium took care of her, she said, adding that her children were born there.
Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was born in the sanatorium, as both her parents had the disease.
She said she is glad that the Japanese government reviewed its past policy and hopes the issue would receive more attention in Taiwan.
The history of Hansen’s disease patients is not something that can easily be denied, film director Wang Mo-lin (王墨林) said.
Taiwan’s Hansen’s disease patients were segregated according to Japan’s past policy and they deserve an apology and compensation, he said.
Compared with issues such as “comfort women” and other controversies from World War II, Hansen’s disease patients’ request should be much easier to address, he said, asking: “Why has the Executive Yuan not taken any proper action?”
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