Culture minister defends downgrading of National Palace Museum

Taipei,  Taiwan’s culture minister has denied that a controversial proposal to downgrade the world-famous National Palace Museum’s (NPM) status as a Cabinet-level body was being made for political reasons.

“The NPM became a Cabinet-level body because of political considerations. Now [the move] would be based on professional considerations,” Culture Minister Lee Yung-te (李永得) told reporters at the Legislative Yuan on Monday.

“The NPM is run based on professionalism. Its administrative level is not an important factor” in deciding the museum’s status, Lee said.

Reports last week indicated that the Executive Yuan, which runs the government, has drafted an organizational reform plan under which the NPM could be downgraded from an independent “2nd-tier” Cabinet-level body to a “3rd-tier” body under the Ministry of Culture.

The organizational reform plan is based on the revised Organization Act of the Executive Yuan, which stipulates that the existing 37 ministries and departments under the Executive Yuan be streamlined to 29, the reports said.

Lee defended the idea of downgrading the NPM, saying there was not a museum in the world that was a government department.

“The NPM is a professional management unit, not a policymaking unit, so there is a gap between it and a government department,” Lee argued.

The proposal drew strong opposition from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which denounced the proposal as politically motivated for the purpose of “de-sinicization” under the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

The museum houses the world’s largest collection of priceless Chinese art treasures and its name in both Chinese and English is nearly identical to the one found in the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Reducing its organizational level would make it easier to change the museum’s name and remove its links to China.

Asked if the NPM would have its name changed if the organization reform process went through, Lee answered, “This has absolutely not been discussed.”

He also denied there was a “de-sinicization” issue. “No matter in what form the NPM exists … its status and marketing strategies in the world will remain the same,” Lee said.

Echoing Lee, NPM Director Wu Mi-cha (吳密察) said at a Legislative Yuan hearing that the name of the national museum would not be changed.

On the issue of organization reform, Wu told lawmakers that he respected any of the decisions made by the Executive Yuan.

In a statement released last Friday, the KMT said it was unacceptable that the DPP would decide for political reasons or ideological considerations, to downgrade the NPM and reduce its staff and resources.

It argued that the preservation and research of NPM collections involved professional skills and knowledge, and if the museum were to fall under the Ministry of Culture, its functions would be compromised.

As a Cabinet-level institution, the museum gets resources that allow it to properly preserve and exhibit national treasures, and its status “also highlights importance the country places on history and culture,” the KMT said.

“The maintenance and preservation of nearly 700,000 cultural or historical relics should be monitored by the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, the Control Yuan, and the National Audit Office to ensure the safety of national cultural assets,” the KMT said.

The NPM’s collection spans China’s nearly 5,000-year history. Most of the museum’s over 600,000 art objects were part of the Chinese imperial collection, which began over 1,000 years ago in the early Song dynasty, according to the Tourism Bureau.

In 2018, the museum was ranked 13th in attendance among museums worldwide, according to the 12th annual Theme Index and Museum Index released in May that year.


Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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