Taipei mayor gives soft response to sex worker query

TAIPEI - Mayor Ko Wen-je was caught in a dilemma yesterday, after hard questions from local press urged the mayor to declare his position on an issue between the Collective Of Sex Workers And Supporters (COSWAS) and Datong District's Shuanglian Borough Chief Hung Chen-heng.

During Ko's seventh routine Taipei Mayor and Borough Chief Municipal Forum yesterday, Hung supported the idea that the Taipei City Government should force COSWAS to evacuate the Wenmeng Building, and to remove the building's designated Taipei Historical Heritage status, so that the building may be demolished for the benefit of urban development.

Before the forum, Hung told local press that he felt the building's desigation as a heritage site was not necessary.

According to the borough chief, only four residents from the area attended the public hearing that granted heritage status to the building, which prompted Hung to say that the designation of the building should be reviewed, and the building demolished should it be necessary.

Hung went on to criticise COSWAS for promoting and encouraging the sex-worker industry, which he called a very bad influence on the children of the area. The chief also said that he didn't know how to reply on one occasion when his grandson asked him what the purpose of the building was.

Before attending the forum, Hung said that the building is also a problem for the future urban development of the area, and suggested that it could be replaced with a memorial.

COSWAS Pushes for Public Acquisition of Wenmeng Building

While the forum was in session yesterday, COSWAS demonstrated outside the Taipei City Hall in protest of the borough chief's proposal to demolish the Wenmeng Building.

COSWAS claimed that residents of the borough have been actively stigmatizing the sex-worker industry, and that the reason why the Wenmeng Building was designated as a historical heritage site is because it serves as a symbol and the headquarters of the movement against the abolishment of sex-for-hire services.

The collective went on to implore the city government to acquire the property as a public-owned area so that the movement to preserve the "cultural industry" may continue.

Mayor Caught in Dilemma between Hung and COSWAS

While being interviewed by local press before leading the forum, Ko said that though he was not the person responsible for designating the building as a heritage site, he would take the responsibility head on as the city's mayor.

Ko said that if it was up to him, he would have had related parties conduct a meeting before the designation decision was made to resolve all potential problems.

Before entering the forum, Ko was cornered with a demand that he declare his position toward the escort industry.

In response, the mayor half-jokingly said the question was too hard for him to answer, and that such questions are responsible for him going gray.