12/10/2007, 00.00
TAIWAN
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Removing the memory of Chiang Kai-shek, a internal challenge in Taiwan

Taiwan’s ruling DPP government has removed the name of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek from what is now Taiwan's Democracy Memorial Hall complex. A missionary who is also an East Asia expert explains the reasons behind the decision, which he attributes to the upcoming presidential elections rather than any pro-independence motive.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The name of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was removed from a memorial gate to Taiwan's Democracy Memorial Hall complex (once named after Chiang but renamed in May) and replaced with ‘freedom square.’ “It is a political act with which President Chen Shui-Bian’s Democratic People’s Party (DPP) is trying to garner the support of indigenous Taiwanese ahead of the upcoming presidential elections,” a missionary, who is an East Asia expert with more than 20 years in Taiwan and Hong Kong, told AsiaNews

The decision to remove from a memorial gate the name of the island's nationalist leader, who fled the mainland in 1949 after being defeated by the Communists, was taken in May by the education ministry.

Put up on Friday the new plaque caused a backlash from supporters of the Kuomintang (Chiang’s nationalist party) who clashed with police. During the incident a journalist was hit by a truck and is now in hospital with serious injuries.

Taipei’s Kuomintang mayor Hau Lung-pin protested against the move saying that “that it is the result of the Education Ministry's insistence on tearing down the plaque and mobilising police to cordon off the [. . .] Memorial Hall, thus causing the public uproar.”

For the missionary, the “act is designed to break with the past which the DPP associates with Kuomintang rule. For many years Taiwan has commemorated the martyrs of 28 February, the people who were shot dead when nationalist troops reached the island. But now the government wants to go further. Removing the memory of Chiang Kai-shek represents a gesture towards indigenous voters who are a majority of the population.”

Taking down the plates is just the “latest in a series of revisionist moves made by this government. First statues of the generalissimo disappeared; then his photos were taken down in public buildings; lastly, banknotes which showed him and the founder of modern China Sun Yat-sen (for both the mainland and Taiwan) were taken out of circulation.

For the clergyman “these decisions are not anti-mainland or pro-independence. They are symptomatic of an internal political fight, an attempt to signal that the hall and its surrounding park belong to the population, not to Chiang Kai-shek and his heirs.”

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