2007-03-03

Taiwan Democracy Hall?

Reports appeared today in the Taiwan News and other publications that the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial will be re-christened as a shrine to Taiwan's young democracy. From Max Hirsch's report in the Taipei Times:

A closed-door Cabinet meeting presided over by Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) yesterday ended with an agreement to rename the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall the "Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall," Cabinet spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) told the Taipei Times.

Managed by the Ministry of Education, the hall and its environs will be renamed to honor the country's democratic development, Cheng said.

"Any redesign of the park or buildings will reflect the country's openness, not past authoritarian rule," he said.

This development comes a month after debates in Taiwan's legislative branch of government called for action of this sort.

Discussion of renaming the hall has its partisan aspects, as crucial elections loom for both branches of government in the coming months. This February 6 report from Taiwan Headlines (via Yangmingshan) describes a few of the issues and perceptions in play, as well as detailing some of the options that exist for the memorial.

Lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party have begun pushing for a relocation of the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei to facilitate the establishment of a "Taiwan democracy memorial hall" at the same site while seeking to consolidate their voter support as the year-end legislative elections draw near.

DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng said he and his colleagues favored the relocation as they claimed it would "deepen Taiwans democracy" while requiring no revision of the existing law. The organic law of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall administration "does not stipulate the exact location of the hall," he said.

. . . .

Gao urged the Executive Yuan reach a formal resolution on the relocation as soon as possible. The memorial hall could then be relocated to Taoyuan County in northern Taiwan, the location of the temporary mausoleums of Chiang Kai-shek, who died in 1975, and his son, the late President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), who died in 1988, he said.

He said the DPP Central Standing Committee invited Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) to report at its weekly meeting last Wednesday, in which Tu suggested the change, and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said the matter could be studied.

"The Executive Yuan should approve a relocation of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as soon as possible," Gao urged.

He said that with the upcoming 60th anniversary of the February 28 Incident, the government should form an investigation committee to "get to the bottom of the tragedy" that he said "continues to split society today."

. . . .

Opposition parties have accused the DPP of "ruling the nation with ideology" in a bid to blot out any and all vestiges of Chinas influence from the country. In the meantime, they said, the DPP would adopt its traditional campaign strategy by escalating tensions between people of different backgrounds in order to win the sympathy from pro-green Taiwanese in the year-end legislative elections and next years presidential race.

The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial was Taiwan's defining landmark until the completion of the Taipei 101 skyscraper in 2004. It is one more sign of the onrushing tide of change here that such a fundamental shift in the purpose of an icon can be discussed. The tide effects a corresponding erosion of the late dictator's profile. Over the last decade Chiang's face has begun disappearing from the national currency and each year more statues of the leader are removed from display.

We live in interesting times for Taiwan. But then, in Taiwan, all times are.

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