Thousands protest saving sanatorium

SICK OF WAITING: Many demonstrators said the preservation of Lo Sheng would cause unacceptable delays in the completion of an MRT line in the area

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 2

Thousands of protesters staged a demonstration in a Taipei County suburb yesterday to voice their support for the demolition of Lo Sheng Sanatorium and the mandatory eviction of its residents next month.

Sinjhuang is home to Lo Sheng Sanatorium, where thousands of people with Hansen's disease were once quarantined for life.

A plan to tear down most of the buildings on the 17-hectare site to make room for a Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) depot has met with strong opposition.

Earlier this month, Taipei County authorities posted an eviction notice for Lo Sheng's residents ahead of the construction work.

A crowd, mobilized by lawmakers elected from the district and local politicians, marched from Sinjhuang City Hall to Lo Sheng Sanatorium while chanting slogans and holding up signs yesterday.

"We want the MRT for our survival!" Demonstrators shouted along the way.

The crowd consisted of around 8,000 people, police estimated.

The demonstrators said that the completion of an MRT line connecting Sinjhuang to Taipei was critical to the city's economic prosperity.

"Our hopes for improvement in Sinjhuang's economy lie in the MRT line, and we want no more delays," said Chang Lu-jui (張陸瑞), a demonstrator and a resident of Sinjhuang.

Chang and many other demonstrators say the controversy over Lo Sheng's preservation is responsible for delays in the completion of the MRT line.

"We the people of Sinjhuang have treated the lepers well enough, now they have to give in and make a sacrifice for the public," Chang said.

Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋), who participated in the demonstration, echoed Chang.

"We've waited for three years, do we want to wait any longer?" Chou asked the demonstrators in front of the Lo Sheng sanatorium.

In his speech, Chou also rejected a plan that aims to preserve 90 percent of buildings in the sanatorium while extending the construction period by only three to four months.

"The students [who support Lo Sheng's preservation] said that the 90 percent plan would only extend the construction period by three to four months," he said. "But it'll take at least one year or even longer."

The 90 percent preservation plan was proposed by some construction specialists in Taiwan based on evaluations by a UK construction consultant firm.

Supporters of Lo Sheng's preservation said yesterday they'd like to see the completion of the line.

"Of course we want to see the completion of the MRT line, it's good for everyone, that's why we called an open review of the 90 percent preservation plan," a preservationist said.

But Chou took the hard line.

"We posted a notice [for demolition] on March 16. When the deadline comes on April 16, the county government will act according to the law unless the Executive Yuan decides otherwise," Chou told the crowd.

also see story:

Why Lo Sheng must be preserved