Son was never really part of father's clan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 February, 1996, 12:00am

THE death of Winston Chang Hsiao-tzu marks another painful event for the clan of the late strongman Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo, but will have no impact on Taiwan politics.

Two official sons of Chiang Ching-kuo died early, Chiang Hsiao-wen at 54 in 1989, and Chiang Hsiao-wu at 46 in 1991. Chiang Hsiao-yung, the last surviving official son, is suffering from cancer. But Chang's early death is widely perceived as a genuine loss for Taiwan society.

Most observers agree the Chiang family has little political influence more than eight years after the late President Chiang Ching-kuo died, largely because of the erosion of the Kuomintang party's power under the island's progressive democratisation.

Neither critics nor supporters of the former Kuomintang orthodoxy saw Chang and his twin brother as entirely part of the Chiang clan.

They were brought up not in the Chiang presidential household but in Hsinchu City, some 90 kilometres southwest of Taipei.

Neither received special treatment in their youth because of their parentage, but effectively passed through childhood as orphans in Hsinchu, believing their parents died on the mainland.

The pair were only told of their background after entering senior high school, by their guardian, General Wang Sheng, until 1983 a close aide of Chiang Ching-kuo.

Although there were questions about whether Chang's rapid rise to the presidency of Soochow University was related to his family background, Taiwanese author Lee Ming-yung believes Chang 'as Soochow president wanted to make contributions to Taiwan society, perhaps in part so that Taiwanese would have a more positive impression of them'.

Lee noted that beginning in 1993, Chang began a series of memorial concerts remembering the events of February 28, 1947, in which an estimated 20,000 Taiwanese and a number of mainlanders were killed during the suppression of a spontaneous rebellion against Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang.

'Hsiao-tzu's death is a loss to Taiwan society,' Lee said. 'He was a sharp contrast to others in the Chiang family . . . who seem incapable of putting aside their hunger for power.'