After Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s giant Rubber Duck bid farewell to Keelung Harbor a few days ago, a group concerned with the city’s culture and history gathered at the port’s No. 2 and No. 3 West warehouses in the cold weather to protest against the city government’s plans to demolish these two historically valuable buildings.
The city will hand the area over to the port’s management company, Taiwan International Ports Corp (TIPC), which will build a new cruise terminal. The protest caused a standoff with police and represents one of many conflicts over the preservation of Taiwan’s cultural heritage.
Any government should be responsible for protecting important cultural heritage. However, whether it be the Puantang (普安堂) lay Buddhist monastery in New Taipei City (新北市) or the Keelung wharves, local governments complete ignore culture and care only about development and commercial profit. In addition, destroying such precious cultural heritage while dispatching police is the kind of behavior that one would expect in more savage and uncivilized countries.
These are the only warehouses in the port remaining from the Japanese colonial era. The buildings witnessed Keelung Port’s rise in importance during the Japanese period, the arrival of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government after its retreat to Taiwan, Taiwan’s economic takeoff and the recent delivery of Taiwan Railway Administration’s Puyuma Express trains.
While the buildings’ exteriors may not seem spectacular, their interior steel frames show industrial technology from the 1930s which, coupled with the memories of those who arrived in Taiwan for the first time in 1949 at the port, makes these buildings important to our heritage and worthy of preservation.
However, in the name of development, the Keelung City Government used its Cultural Affairs Bureau to find a legal way of establishing that the area lacks “cultural value” before handing it over to the TIPC, which plans to replace the buildings with a cruise terminal and other facilities.
Shockingly, the Cultural Affairs Bureau said that incorporating five sets of original steel girders into the new structures would provide sufficient symbolism.
When excavators move in to tear the buildings down, the government and the TIPC will say that the job has already been contracted out and cannot be halted. However, there have been many examples of demolitions being stopped after contracts were issued. For example, the current site of the Directorate-General of Highways in Taipei had been signed over for demolition, but the tear-down was halted and the building eventually preserved as a historical site.
The Keelung City Government has also said that preserving old warehouses gets in the way of development and commerce. However, there are many examples of warehouses overseas that are preserved and turned into world-class tourist attractions. For example, the warehouses at Otaru Port in Japan’s Hokkaido bring in a great deal of commercial revenue each year, while the warehouses at Maizuru Harbor in Kyoto Prefecture are not only a cultural asset, but the entire area has historical significance and is full of memories about people who moved after World War II. This is precisely why this harbor is currently applying for UNESCO World Heritage status.
Keelung boasts lots of cultural heritage. Destroying it in the name of development is outright stupid. If the people of Keelung do not wake up before the elections and vote out this thoughtless and crude regime, it will be impossible to preserve the city’s culture and history.
Hung Chih-wen is a professor of geography at National Taiwan Normal University.
Translated by Drew Cameron
China has started to call Tibet “Xizang” instead of Tibet for several reasons. First, China wants to assert its sovereignty and legitimacy over Tibet, which it claims as an integral part of its territory and history. China argues that the term Xizang, which means “western Tsang” in Chinese, reflects the historical and administrative reality of the region, which was divided into U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham by the Tibetans themselves. China also contends that the term Tibet, which derives from the Mongolian word Tubet, is a foreign imposition that does not represent the diversity and complexity of the region. Second, China wants to
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) had engaged in weeks of political horse-trading between high-ranking officials, hoping to form a joint ticket to win January’s presidential election, but it all ended in a dramatic public falling out on live television on Thursday. The farcical performance involving mudslinging and quarrels among three men — the TPP’s candidate and Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), the KMT’s candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), an independent — and their aides in the evening before the official candidate registration deadline
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) might be accused of twice breaking his promises and betraying the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), then launching a signature drive for himself to stand as a candidate in January’s presidential election, only to turn around and quit the race. It clearly shows that rich people are free to do as they like. If that is so, then Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is the perfect example of a political hack who changes his position as easily as turning the pages of a book. Taiwanese independence supporters
On Nov. 15, US President Joe Biden reiterated the US’ commitment to maintaining cross-strait peace and the “status quo” during a meeting with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping (習近平) on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, California. However, Biden refrained from making clear to Xi what Taiwan’s “status quo” exactly is (as the US defines it). It is not the first time Taiwan’s legal status has become an issue of contention. In September, Tesla CEO Elon Musk caused a media storm after he referred to Taiwan as “an integral part of China” during an interview. This ignorance about