Government to remove all Chiang Kai-shek statues
The Taiwanese are openly discussing the responsibilities of the late dictator in the 228 massacre and the White Terror. The Kuomintang accuses the government of trying to deny the past. President Chen reshuffles his cabinet to show who is in charge and prepare the next elections.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A decision by Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government to remove statues of late nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek from all military premises as well as all references to him in public places has caused outrage in the ranks of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party. At the same time Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian reshuffled his government reconsolidating his grip on power despite attempts to oust him.

On Monday, the Military Police Headquarters in Taipei removed Chiang's statue from its premises. Similarly, DPP President Yu Shyi-kun today presented a proposal to remove honour guards from Chiang Kai-Shek's mausoleum at the Tzuhu Presidential Burial Place, handing responsibility for the upkeep of the tomb to the late dictator’s family. A group of DPP MPs also said they would press for the name of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei to be changed to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall.

The KMT slammed the ruling DPP for trying to cut off Taiwan's Chinese heritage. “Like him or not, Chiang is part of Taiwan's history,” KMT legislator Tseng Yung-chuan said.

Chiang led nationalist forces during the civil war against the Communists. Following his defeat on the mainland he and the remnants of his armies fled to the island of Taiwan where he died in 1975 after ruling for 26 years.

Since the DPP took power in 2000 ending 51 years of KMT rule, the government has removed statues of Chiang from parks, roads and military buildings.

The ruling party is also in favour of revising the history of the “228 Incident,” which refers to an outbreak of violence on February 28, 1947, in Taipei, which led to a large-scale slaughter.

On that day, police opened fire against protesting crowds killing many. This provoked an uprising that was crushed by the army. Tens of thousands of people were killed followed by mass arrests.

In Taipei anyone found in the streets was shot and soldiers hunted people in homes. Marshall Law was imposed to last till 1987 when international, including US, pressures prevailed over Taiwanese authorities.

For years public discussion of the event was prohibited and an official version of events is still lacking.

More and more people blame Chiang for the massacre and accuse him for this role in unleashing a White Terror campaign against dissidents and democratic activists that ended in the imprisonment or killing of an estimated 140,000 Taiwanese.

In the meantime Chen Shui-bian has approved a government reshuffle. Chiou I-jen, secretary-general of the island's National Security Council, will swap posts with Mark Chen Tan-sun to once again serve as President Chen's secretary-general and prepare for the decisive parliamentary (December 2007) and presidential (March 2008) elections.

Shi Hwei-yew, deputy director of the National Security Bureau, will replace Hsueh Shih-ming as the Bureau's chief.

The latest changes signal that Mr Chen has once again taken the reins of power, eight months after he was forced to delegate some powers to Premier Su Tseng-chang under mounting pressure for his resignation over a series of scandals linked to him, his family and the government.

Mr Chen survived three recall motions launched by the opposition between June and October to try to remove him from office.

“What he said about the delegation of some powers to Premier Su was just a lie. Now that he has risen from the fall, he wants to take the power back,” said opposition KMT lawmaker Hsu Hsiao-ping.

Political analyst George Tsai Wei, from the Institute of International Relations, said it was important for Mr Chen to ensure a DPP win in the upcoming legislative and presidential elections to save himself from prosecution after he steps down in May next year when his present four-year term ends. (PB)