TAIPEI – Taiwan’s Presidential Office on Wednesday heaped praise on late Japanese civil engineer Yoichi Hatta for his contributions to the island, after his statue was found beheaded over the weekend.
Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang told a news conference that Hatta was an internationally renowned expert who not only played a significant role in the history of modern hydraulic engineering, but also contributed a lot to Taiwan’s development of agriculture and irrigation systems.
The statue was allegedly vandalized by a radical pro-unification activist.
“In Taiwan, Yoichi Hatta has been held in high esteem by many people, including politicians, regardless of their political affiliation or beliefs,” Huang said.
Any radical action aimed at damaging public property is inappropriate, and should not be encouraged but rather punished in accordance with the law, he said.
Huang made the remarks in response to the shocking decapitation on Saturday of a bronze statue of Hatta at a park in southern Taiwan just weeks before an annual commemoration.
Lee Cheng-lung, a former Taipei City councilor who is a member of the China Unification Promotion Party, which promotes the unification of Taiwan and China, told police on Monday that he cut the head off because he did not agree with the historic treatment of Hatta.
The police brought him and a female accomplice in for questioning after examining surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses.
CUPP Chairman Chang An-le said on Wednesday that while his party understands and supports Lee’s action, he was in no way instructed to commit the crime.
Chang said that he believed Lee did not target Hatta specifically or Japanese in general, but rather those who maliciously killed Taiwanese during the Japanese colonial period. He added, the message may also be aimed at those who deliberately ignore the contributions Chiang Kai-shek made to Taiwan and vandalize statues of the island’s first president.
Hatta was stationed in Taiwan from 1910 to 1942, during which time he oversaw construction of the Chianan Canal and Wushantou Reservoir in the south as key components of a massive irrigation system in the Chianan Plain, one of many infrastructure projects Japan implemented to modernize Taiwan during its 50-year occupation that ended in 1945.
He was killed in an Allied submarine attack on a ship transporting him to the Philippines in 1942. Distraught by his death, his wife jumped to her death from atop the reservoir he built that would bring prosperity to the once-poor area.
The vandalism happened only three weeks before an annual service to commemorate Hatta is to be held at the park, which was commissioned in 2011 to honor his contributions to Taiwan.