Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The memorial hall formerly named after Chiang Kai-shek reopened to the public yesterday in Taipei after being renamed the “Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall” as part of the Taiwanese government's efforts to celebrate democracy and present the controversial leader's dismal human rights record.
“Twenty years ago, Taiwan was liberated from the shackles of martial law. And today we can proclaim that the edifice commemorating the dictator responsible for martial law has been renamed the [National] Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall,” Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said on radio in his speech inaugurating the rededicated building. “We have finally managed to do what should have been done two decades ago,” he said.
The inscription Da Jhong Jhih Jheng (Rooted in the Great Equilibrium with perfect rectitude) on the entrance gate in honour of Chiang has been changed to “Liberty Square.”
The hall, which houses a 10m-high (33ft) bronze statue of Chiang, now exhibits hundreds of photographs of those killed under the former leader's iron-grip rule and kites to illustrate the theme “blowing a democratic wind.”. The guard of honour that once stood by the statue has also been removed.
The government under the island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been involved for some time in undoing Chiang’s legacy and revising the historical judgment of his rule. The former ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Party, is opposed to the move.
Chiang led the KMT till his death in 1975. Altogether the nationalists ruled the island nation for 51 years till 2000 when the DPP won the elections.
Chiang fled the mainland in 1949 after being defeated by the Communist forces of Mao Zedong. On the island he is seen by many as the architect of Taiwan’s economic miracle and saviour from a Communist invasion. Others hold him responsible for a massacre on 28 February 1947 in which thousands of rioting Taiwanese were killed by KMT troops.
Experts do not consider Chen’s revisionism as directed at mainland China but see it instead as part of an ongoing political struggle between the DPP and the KMT.
Hence the renaming of the Memorial Hall is a way of telling the population that it is for their legacy, not for Chiang and his heirs.