Chiang era ends with death of Ching-kuo's wife

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 12:00am

The Russian wife of late Taiwanese president Chiang Ching-kuo, Faina Chiang Fang-liang, died of cancer yesterday at the age of 88.

Her death closed the final chapter of the Chiang era, during which Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Ching-kuo, ruled Taiwan for four decades after fleeing to the island in 1949, when the communists took power on the mainland.

The power of the Chiang name faded soon after Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988. In 2000, the KMT ceased to be the ruling party after Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won the presidency.

Unlike her husband and her father-in-law, who had been criticised by some Taiwanese as a dictator and political persecutor, Faina Chiang, whose maiden name was Faina Epatcheva Vahaleva, was respected by almost all Taiwanese.

Even critics yesterday offered their respects to the late widow.

'Although she was married to the powerful Chiang family and became the first lady, she was never involved in politics. She did her part dutifully and won respect from everyone,' said Lin Chih-chia, secretary-general of pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union.

Mr Chen, a longtime critic of the Chiang family, was swift to issue a statement praising her for upholding the virtues of traditional Chinese women and being a model for all mothers and wives.

He and Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien separately went to the hospital where Faina Chiang was treated to pay their last respects to her.

KMT chairman Lien Chan said she died peacefully. 'Throughout her life, she walked Chiang Ching-kuo's road. She led a very simple life. She was the late president's biggest support and reflection,' Mr Lien said.

Faina Chiang, who had four children, is survived by daughter Chiang Hsiao-chang, and several grandchildren. Her three sons all died before her, while her mother-in-law, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, died last year.

She will be temporarily laid to rest beside her late husband in his mausoleum in Touliao, Taoyuan county. Their remains will later be moved to Wu Chih Shan military cemetery in Taipei for formal burial.

Chiang Kai-shek and his son had not been officially buried because their wills instructed that their bodies be sent to the mainland for formal burial, but the family decided earlier this year to bury them in Wu Chih Shan.