After being accused of perpetrating “revisionist history” by failing to cite the efforts made by former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) mayoralty in Taipei to preserve the 44 South Village (四四南村), the Taipei City Government’s Department of Civil Affairs on Tuesday said it plans to revise the background information at the military residential compound to reflect its history more accurately.
The structure is the first military residential compound built in Taiwan after World War II and sits next to Taipei 101 in the now upscale Xinyi District (信義).
Last month, visitors and historians touring the compound discovered that the Chen administration’s efforts to turn the compound into a “living museum” during his stint as Taipei mayor from 1994 to 1998 were not mentioned at the site’s historical document exhibition hall.
Chang Ching-sen (張景森), former vice chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, was disconcerted by the finding and asked in a Facebook post: “Why do these waisheng (外省) politicos want to cover up this fact?”
Waisheng refers to those who fled China with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) after 1949.
“It is lucky that we are still alive to tell this story. The village was nearly demolished in 1998. It was saved and renovated at the insistence of Chen’s city government to become the nation’s first preserved military dependency village,” wrote Chang, who led the city’s Economic Development Bureau under Chen.
“There was a man surnamed Fei (費) who said the project was an attempt to humiliate Mainlanders. At the time, Chen wanted to foster mutual understanding between ethnic groups, so he asked me to hold a dialogue with the leaders of mainlander groups. We were able to get their endorsement and support for the project,” Chang said.
“Regretfully, history is written by the ruling regime. Chen made the decision to save the village, but his contribution is absent from in all the exhibition materials,” he added.
Department director Huang Lu Ching-ju (黃呂錦茹) said that since taking up her post, she has not seen any documents or materials related to the Chen government’s work on the 44 South Village.
“The information I have seen indicated that the preservation project was launched during President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) tenure as Taipei mayor. I asked other long-serving city officials about this issue and none of them were aware that Chen had started the project. We simply used the information available to provide a historical background of the compound. There were no ulterior motives,” she said.
Unconvinced, a group of bipartisan city councilors made a request at a recent Taipei City Council meeting that the city government replace the exhibition text at the compound with one that accurately represents its history.
The department on Tuesday said that according to the most recently retrieved files, the earliest 44 South Village preservation initiative took place in 1997, according to an official document dispatched to the Taipei City Urban Planning Committee.
Since the document pertains to the time when Chen was mayor, officials said it and other files confirm his administration’s conservation work on the military compound.