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Protesters Back Leprosy Patients in Taipei
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More than 3,000 protesters marched in Taipei yesterday to protest a government plan to evict dozens of aging leprosy sufferers and demolish their sanatorium to make way for a new subway line.

The Losheng Leprosy Sanatorium, in the Taipei suburb of Hsinchuang, was built in 1932 to quarantine leprosy patients, cutting them off from family and society.

Leprosy, a chronic infectious disease, can cause progressive damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Effective treatment for it began to appear only in the late 1940s.

The sanatorium once housed some 1,000 patients. Taiwan authorities recently relocated all but a few dozen of the sanatorium's 300 remaining sufferers to prepare for the compound's demolition to make way for the subway line.

But about 45 patients have refused to be moved, saying the spacious compound covered by a wide canopy of trees is their home.

Their cause has won the support of many medical workers.

"We are ashamed by the rude treatment to a group of aging people who have lived a life of calamity," said Chen Chih-wei, a protest leader.

The Taiwan authorities agreed last week to put off the demolition plan until the government could find a way to reroute the subway line.

Residents have also staged numerous demonstrations protesting the long delay in the subway linking Hsinchuang to downtown Taipei.

(Shanghai Daily April 16, 2007)

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