KMT restores Chiang's name to memorial

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2009, 12:00am

Taiwan's Kuomintang government yesterday restored the name of Chiang Kai-shek to a Taipei hall built in memory of the island's late leader.

The restoration came 18 months after pro-independence former president Chen Shui-bian replaced the memorial's nameplate with 'National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall' in a bid to downplay Chiang's legacy in Taiwan.

More than 300 police officers were sent yesterday to keep order, and barbed-wire barricades had been set up overnight to keep pro-independence protesters from disrupting the restoration work. When the memorial's nameplate was taken down by the Democratic Progressive Party government in January last year, it triggered a violent partisan clash.

But only a handful of pro-independence supporters showed up yesterday to protest against the restoration. They said the move would only intensify political strife in Taiwan and polarise the island.

Officials, however, insisted that it was necessary.

'The restoration of the 'Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall' nameplate is in line with the legislature's decision and the due process of law, as the former administration had never completed the legal procedures before removing the nameplate,' hall manager Tseng Kun-ti said. The Chen administration failed to get approval from the KMT-dominated legislature to replace the nameplate.

The pro-independence camp was angry, as its members saw Chiang as a military dictator from the mainland. Chiang ruled Taiwan with an iron fist, and pro-independence movements were outlawed during his lifetime.

'The Democratic Progressive Party can never tolerate the use of national resources in commemorating a dictator who had slaughtered so many of his own people,' DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said.

The party held the late leader responsible for the 1947 massacre, during which thousands of Taiwanese were killed by KMT troops sent to the island from the mainland to suppress an uprising. The DPP has also blamed Chiang and his son Chiang Ching-kuo for starting the 'white terror' period between 1949 and 1988 when political dissidents were regularly jailed or exiled.

When Chen Shui-bian became president in 2000, he tried all he could to erase the legacy of Chiang Kai-shek, including removing the late leader's name from the international airport outside Taipei, cancelling two public holidays in his honour, and discarding or dismantling hundreds of the former leader's statues.

The memorial - built in 1976 and opened in 1980 - is a Taipei landmark and tourist attraction.