Activists renew call for preservation of old Taipei prison

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 4

A group of activists yesterday repeated their call for the government to preserve the remains of the old Taipei prison, even though most of the original compound has been demolished.

Located in the city’s Da-an District (大安), the 4.046 hectare prison compound was built by the Japanese in the early 1900s during the colonial period, in response to anti-Japanese uprisings throughout Taiwan.

Almost all of the prison’s buildings were demolished by previous Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administrations, leaving only two stone walls, known as the north wall and the south wall, and a number of Japanese-style residential buildings along the walls.

While the north wall has been designated a historic site by the Taipei City Government, preservationists are concerned that an urban renewal plan would cause all the remaining relics to be destroyed.

“Memories would be taken away if the government decided to demolish the site, which could have been a candidate for a UNESCO world heritage site designation if the government was serious about preserving historical buildings,” Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽), a professor at Chang Jung Christian University, said yesterday at the site.

According to Chuang, the site is rich in memories and history that spanned the Japanese colonial period and the White Terror era under the then-KMT authoritarian regime. Tens of thousands of anti-Japanese and anti-KMT political prisoners were jailed at the prison, and a number of political prisoners were executed there.

“Too many historic buildings have been destroyed by the KMT administration. I would say that amounts to murdering the memories and history of all Taiwanese,” Chuang said.

Chuang urged the government to suspend the demolition, launch a comprehensive investigation of the site and establish a memorial park to commemorate the prison.