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    Posted February 3, 2013 by
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    Battle of a community to preserve its cultural and historic heritage

    Republic New Village, a community rich in history and culture in a small fishing town of southern Taiwan (http://goo.gl/maps/wJLvM) is threatened of demolition and reconstruction. This community witnesses the history of Taiwan transition from Japanese occupation to the government of Nationalist Chinese.
    During WWII when Taiwan was under Japanese control, they built a navy aviation base near the fishing town in 1941, capable of hydroplane takeoff and landing, on the shore of Da-Tang, literally means big lagoon, a scenic coastal lagoon ( http://goo.gl/maps/Sn0Xv) sustaining a diverse mangrove and salt water ecosystem. Republic New Village was the living quarter of the families of staffs of the nearby Japanese navy aviation unit. It consisted of more than 50 Japanese dwellings and was well landscaped and facilitated in its time. The air-raid shelters remaining tell the story of its time. After the retreat of Nationalist government to Taiwan in 1949, it became the compound for families of officers of Nationalist Air-Force.
    In Taiwan, historical site and its cultural heritage are protected by law for their preservation. The historic and cultural value of the village was examined by a board of committee under the auspices of local county government. Republic New Village was deemed not worthy of historic preservation. The land of Republic New Village belongs to the government and is for the defense department to manage and use. The decision of the county government cleared the way for the defense department to auction the land to developer. There is suspicion that the evaluation and decision of the historic preservation committee was manipulated. The appeal to reexamine was turned down. Amid strong protest of local residents and lobbying of conservation groups, which gained limited publicity, the government has the upper hand. Most of the existing residents are coerced to relocate. The first wave of reconstruction started one and half year ago. A new building at the south side of the community is under construction to relocate the residents, rising high above the surrounding old Japanese dwellings, posing a stark contrast and menace to the existence of the old past. Most of the existing Japanese dwellings have been there for more than seventy years. Now they are deliberately left desolate and waiting helplessly to be bulldozed flat.
    The battle is to have the county government grant these old Japanese dwellings their proper and deserved historical status. So they can be saved and the history of this community could be preserved for the future generations to relish. Otherwise, its culture and historical heritage would be permanently lost and irreplaceable.
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