More than 200 people took to the streets of Taipei yesterday to protest a real-estate investor’s plan to evict the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS) from the Wenmeng Building (文萌樓), a former brothel in Datong District (大同).
Along with the other two-story brick houses lined up on either side of it, the Wenmeng Building has been part of the Taipei’s architectural makeup for nearly 100 years. Prior to the city government’s official abolition of prostitution licenses in 1997, the neighborhood in Datong had long been a popular red-light district.
Today, the former brothel is the only building that is still somewhat connected to its past as it has been repurposed into a small, private sex industry museum run by the collective, while also serving as a home for former licensed prostitutes and a base for the group’s campaign to re-legalize prostitution.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
The structure has been designated a historic building by the city government, but since real-estate investor Lin Li-ping (林麗萍) purchased the property three years ago, she has been trying to oust the collective from there.
“I am very angry about it, we’ve been here for decades, it does not make any sense that she [Lin] is trying to kick us out,” former sex worker Li-chun (麗君) said tearfully as she demonstrated in the street in her wheelchair. “My body is suffering, but as long as I can talk, I will protest.”
Another former sex worker, Hsiao-yu (小玉), said that the Wenmeng Building is historically symbolic.
“We spent decades of our youth here; our work, sweat and tears are all in here,” she said. “This is why the city government has designated it a historic building.”
“The new owner does not even know the building, how could she manage it? She should at least learn from us for three or five years before she kicks us out,” Hsiao-yu added.
The law stipulates that a historic building may be bought and sold, but holds the owner responsible for its maintenance, requiring that they devise a plan for the structure’s management for the local cultural affairs authority.
COSWAS secretary Wu Jo-ying (吳若瑩) said that while an owner cannot demolish a historic building, they can profit immensely from ownership alone.
“Wenmeng Building is located in a commercial zone, so if the building’s owner wants to erect a new 20-story edifice in its place, but cannot because it is illegal to tear down a historic structure, they may transfer the right to construct the new building elsewhere and may end profiting hugely if property prices are higher in the new location,” Wu said. “That is why Lin has bought the Wenmeng Building.”
COSWAS executive director Chung Chun-chu (鍾君竺) said that while the public tend to be very concerned when development projects affect people such as farmers, “not much attention is paid to sex workers, even though many have been evicted from their residences or forced ‘underground’ as cities develop.”
After departing Guishui Park (歸綏公園), the assembly point for the protest, the demonstrators made stops outside Lin’s home and her real-estate development company before arriving at the city government’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Heritage Office in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華).
TRICKED INTO MOVING: Local governments in China do not offer any help, and Taiwanese there must compete with Chinese in an unfamiliar setting, a researcher said Beijing’s incentives for Taiwanese businesspeople to invest in China are only intended to lure them across the Taiwan Strait, after which they receive no real support, an expert said on Sunday. Over the past few years, Beijing has been offering a number of incentives that “benefit Taiwanese in name, while benefiting China in reality,” a cross-strait affairs expert said on condition of anonymity. Strategies such as the “31 incentives” are intended to lure Taiwanese talent, capital and technology to help address China’s economic issues while also furthering its “united front” efforts, they said. Local governments in China do not offer much practical
Police have detained a Taoyuan couple suspected of over the past two months colluding with human trafficking rings and employment scammers in Southeast Asia to send nearly 100 Taiwanese jobseekers to Cambodia. At a media briefing in Taipei yesterday, the Criminal Investigation Bureau presented items seized from the couple, including alleged victims’ passports, forged COVID-19 vaccination records, mobile phones, bank documents, checks and cash. The man, surnamed Tsai (蔡), and his girlfriend, surnamed Tsan (詹), were taken into custody last month, after police at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport stopped four jobseekers from boarding a flight to Phnom Penh, said Dustin Lee (李泱輯),
PUBLIC POLL: More than half believe Chinese drills would make Taiwanese less willing to unify with China, while 36 percent said an invasion was highly unlikely Half of Taiwanese support independence, according to the results of a poll released yesterday by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, which also found that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) support rating fell by 7 percentage points. Fifty percent of respondents supported independence, 25.7 percent supported maintaining the “status quo” and 11.8 percent supported unification, while 12.1 percent had no opinion, did not know or refused to answer, the foundation said. Support for independence is the new mainstream opinion, regardless of which party is in power, foundation chairman Michael You (游盈隆) said. Insinuations that Taiwan wants to maintain the “status quo” are a fabrication that
BILINGUAL PLAN: The 17 educators were recruited under a program that seeks to empower Taiwanese, the envoy to the Philippines said The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines on Thursday hosted a send-off event for the first group of English-language teachers from the country who were recruited for a Ministry of Education-initiated program to advance bilingual education in Taiwan. The 14 teachers and three teaching assistants are part of the Taiwan Foreign English Teacher Program, which aims to help find English-language instructors for Taiwan’s public elementary and junior-high schools, the office said. Seventy-seven teachers and 11 teaching assistants from the Philippines have been hired to teach in Taiwan in the coming school year, office data showed. Among the first group is 57-year-old