Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reassessing the past

There seems to be a frenzy of activity at the moment to remove all vestiges of Taiwan's authoritarian past and change sinocised names to those more firmly reflecting their setting in Taiwan.

Defence minister Lee Jye, lost his KMT membership, after acceding to cabinet orders to remove statues of Chiang Kai-shek, the island's controversial former president, from military bases.
The Cabinet plans to rename the Chiang Kai-shek memorial to the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall - though other plans to demolish the outer walls have been resisted by the city goverment.

Yesterday, Kaohsiung city government dismantled the island's largest seated statue of Chiang and renamed its cultural centre - removing all references to him.

I think we can expect more cases like this, as the 31st anniversary of his death approaches next month...

Taiwan furore over statue removal
By Caroline Gluck BBC News, Taipei
The government wants statues of Chiang Kai-shek to be removed

The biggest seated bronze statue in Taiwan of its late authoritarian ruler, Chiang Kai-shek, is being removed from the island's second city of Kaohsiung.

It is the latest in a series of steps by the government to dismantle legacies of the island's authoritarian past and stress its distinctiveness from China.

Chiang led the Kuomintang (Nationalist party) and once governed all of China.
He fled to Taiwan with his troops in 1949 after losing to the Communists at the end of the civil war.

Scuffles broke out late on Tuesday night as protestors gathered to try to prevent hundreds of police and soldiers from starting work to dismantle a large bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek which sits inside the entrance to Kaohsiung's main cultural centre.

Television news reports showed protestors trying to scramble over barbed wire barricades.
Work to remove the bronze statue, first erected more than 20 years ago, continued on Wednesday.

Revered and reviled
City officials said the bronze figure would be temporarily stored until another site could be found where it would be welcomed and well treated.

Kaohsiung city government officials had earlier announced that Chiang Kai-shek's name was being removed from the cultural centre.

The steps are in line with recent cabinet efforts to remove monuments honouring Taiwan's former and controversial president.

He is still revered by many as a hero, but reviled by others for ordering a violent crackdown on critics and imposing martial law.

In recent months, his name has been removed from Taiwan's main international airport and the government has ordered his statues to be removed from military bases.

A landmark memorial hall dedicated to him in Taipei - a key tourist attraction - is also due to be renamed, although cabinet plans to tear down the outer walls of the building are being resisted by city government officials.

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