All’s well that ends well.Everybody is happy the problem of the Losheng Sanatorium in Hsinchuang or Xinzhuang was settled to the satisfaction of all except the taxpayers.

After months of confrontation between the inmates and the government, an agreement was finally reached to keep the former leprosarium almost intact and make it possible for the mass rapid transit line to open to traffic on schedule.The government agreed to pay for rearrangements in the routing of the line, estimated at NT$670 million, which the taxpayers have to bear, of course.

But there is a lesson to be learned.Had there been careful designing, all the trouble would have been spared.When the MRT proponents wanted to route the Taipei-Xinzhuang line through the asylum the Japanese had built to segregate patients of Hansen’s disease, they should have tried to have the consent of the inmates. Apparently, the MRT builders didn’t anticipate that the Council for Cultural Affairs would designate the whole complex as a national monument.On the other hand, the government has arranged new accommodation for all the inmates and prepared to give them compensation for their moving away from the sanatorium they called home for more than six decades.As a matter of fact, about half of the inmates accepted the government offer.

That prompted the government to remove them by force if necessary to raze all the 46 structures in the compound to make way for the MRT line and a yard.The government action triggered the confrontation, with human rights activists joining on behalf of the inmates who refused to move at any cost.Hundreds of supporters took to the streets to call for transitional justice.They even laid siege to Premier Su Tseng-chang’s official residence.Riot police were called up to control the demonstrators, and there was a clash.Many supporters were arrested.

All this could have been prevented, if all concerned had acted reasonably.For instance, the Council for Cultural Affairs didn’t have to try to preserve the whole compound intact.Even the inmates finally agreed to keep 40 of the structures, with the remaining six to be torn down.None of them have to be kept as cultural heritage.They will be kept to remind the people that scores of patients were segregated there without treatment, which was already available when they were rounded up by the Japanese.That purpose could be served by a dozen of buildings or even fewer preserved.There was no need for conserving all of them.The Council has designated many too many buildings as part of our cultural heritage.

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