Burying a Dictator: Fresh Bid to Remove All Statues of Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan

Burying a Dictator: Fresh Bid to Remove All Statues of Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan
Photo Credit: Corbis/達志影像
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'Statues [of Chiang] are the final remnant of the [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] authoritarian regime, which has to be removed if a full-fledged democracy is to be realized.'

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Amid increased acts of vandalism on statues of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) lawmakers in Taiwan are calling for the widespread removal of statues of the former dictator.

On April 22, a statue of Chiang in a public park on the outskirts of Taipei was decapitated and red paint splashed all over the body. The base of the statue was spray-painted with words such as “killer” and “228” – referring to the February 28 Incident (also known as the 228 Massacre) in 1947, when Chiang was the leader of the Kuomintang (KMT), which saw the KMT suppress a public uprising and kill thousands.

A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker has drafted a new bill that would see the removal of all symbols associated with Chiang in the large public hall in Taipei that bears his name and relocate 45,000 statues of Chiang in Taiwan to the Chiang’s mausoleum in Taoyuan’s Dasi District (大溪) – currently home to 219 Chiang statues.

“Statues [of Chiang] are the final remnant of the [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] authoritarian regime, which has to be removed if a full-fledged democracy is to be realized,” DPP Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) said on April 22.

The proposed law would also abolish the Organization Act of National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Management Office, and follows the government’s earlier plan to make amendments to the act.

After the DPP first came into power in 2000 with the election of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Chiang’s legacy was watered-down in Taiwan’s public spaces. The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was renamed the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall and a number of Chiang’s statues in parks and universities have been removed with high-profile press coverage. The DPP’s decade-long policy has been coined as a movement to remove all symbols of Chiang Kai-shek.

However, the KMT administration, in power for eight years from 2008, reversed several of those measures.

New amendments to the Organization Act of National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Management Office were proposed on Feb. 25 by Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君). Following her announcement, immediate amendments were made to “neutralize” the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Souvenirs associated with “authoritarian rule” were removed from gift shops in Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Chiang’s “memorial song” no longer plays at the opening and closing times.

“The amendments proposed by the Ministry of Culture will not create transitional justice, but will instead further social opposition and social differentiation in Taiwan,” KMT Culture and Communications Committee deputy director Hu Wen-chi (胡文琦) said on Feb. 25. Hu suggests the law is an attempt by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to weaken the opposition party and to set different groups against each other.

The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall’s “proposed monument” status, obtained in 2007, was also challenged last month, with some suggesting that the status was only obtained for political means.

Given the site’s short 37 years of history, “the proposed monument status should be removed completely,” DPP Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said on March 17.

In July 2016, there was a proposal to change the name used in the act, which is currently “First President, Chiang Gong” and can be controversial in its Chinese-language translation. Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) of New Power Party proposed changing the name to a more neutral term, “Former President,” and for the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Management Office to readjust its research focus to topics other than Chiang.

Taiwan’s recent history of vandalizing Chiang statues:

2003: National Central University – statue decapitation.

2007: Kaohsiung Mayor removes statue in Kaohsiung Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center and renamed the center “Kaohsiung Cultural Center.”

Peikang Sport center (Yunlin County) – statue vandalized with paint.

2012: National Sun Yat-sen University and National Cheng Kung University – statue vandalized with paint.

2013: Chiang Kai-shek Park (Chiayi City) – statue vandalized.

2015: National Chengchi University and Soochow University – statue spray painted “murderer.”

Keelung Park – statue decapitation.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – statue hit with eggs and water balloons.

Kaohsiung Sugar Factory Museum – statue destroyed with a hammer.

2016: National Sun Yat-sen University, National Taichung University of Science and Technology, Fu Jen Catholic University – statue vandalized.

2017: National Chung Hsing University – statue removed by school.

Editor: Edward White

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