Blood spilled in battle over Taipei memorial

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2007, 12:00am

Politician's aide drives truck over journalist

The first blood has been shed in the political standoff between the Taipei city and Taiwanese governments over the removal of late Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek's name from a memorial.

Wang Jui-chang, a journalist for the ETTV cable news network, was crushed under a small truck driven by 40-year-old Peng Sheng-lu, a campaign aide of independent candidate Mei Feng, who is running for a seat in the island's legislature in elections next month.

Wang, who was critically injured, was dragged 7 metres until police stopped the truck and pulled the driver out. The vehicle also knocked down four other journalists and a police officer, who were slightly injured.

The journalists were covering the standoff between President Chen Shui-bian's administration and the city government outside the memorial hall.

The driver, who was arrested on charges of attempted manslaughter and causing injury to others, said he had been passing by the memorial when a crowd tried to beat him.

But an official from the pro-independence Taiwan Nation Building League, which supports renaming the memorial the 'Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall', said Peng drove his truck at the group. The group earlier had a minor clash with opposition supporters protesting against the renaming plan.

The city and Chen governments traded barbs over who was responsible for the bloodshed.

'We deeply regret what has happened,' Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin, a member of the opposition KMT, said. 'I believe it is a result of the Education Ministry's insistence on tearing down the plaque and mobilising police to cordon off the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, thus causing the public uproar.'

Shih Jhy-wey, a spokesman for the Chen government, condemned the violence and also blamed 'certain politicians for failing to uphold their social responsibility over certain controversial issues'.

The standoff is a result of a Chen campaign to erase Chiang's legacy, which the KMT-led city government has resisted since May.

Under the plan, the Chen government would remove the plaque bearing Chiang's name from the memorial, and replace it with one saying 'Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall'. The plaque was disassembled into 15 pieces yesterday, and Education Ministry officials said the pieces would be 'kept safely' and another plaque bearing the new name would be put up today.

Removal of another plaque at the large gate of white stone, with words eulogising Chiang, is expected to be completed today. It would be replaced by a plaque bearing the name 'Freedom Square', the officials said. The memorial re-opens tomorrow.

Hundreds of police cordoned off the memorial and prevented rival camps from engaging in clashes after Chiang's supporters vowed to block the name removal and massed outside the memorial on Wednesday.

Chiang led the opposition Kuomintang, which ruled Taiwan for 51 years until 2000, when it lost power to the Democratic Progressive Party.

Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien said the removal was unnecessary at a sensitive time when elections were nearing, because it would create confrontation.