Chiang Kai-shek's former house gutted

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2007, 12:00am

A former residence of late Taiwanese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek burned down before dawn on the scenic Yangming Mountain yesterday amid an escalating campaign to wipe out Chiang's legacy.

The main hall of the 87-year-old Grass Mountain Villa on the outskirts of Taipei was destroyed by the fire.

It started at 12.20am and was extinguished an hour later, causing damage estimated at NT$30 million (HK$7 million), police and officials of the Taipei Cultural Affairs Department said.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, but rumours blamed it on supporters of a campaign launched by President Chen Shui-bian and his pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to remove the legacy of Chiang and his son, who ruled Taiwan from 1949 to 1988.

The villa became Chiang's first official residence soon after he fled to the island in 1949. Chiang and his wife, Soong May-ling, lived there until May 1950, when a new villa was built in Taipei's Shihlin district. Grass Mountain Villa then became the couple's summer residence.

The main hall, which was later turned into an exhibition room, displayed copies of letters and other historic documents related to Chiang.