Glimpses of democracy or dictatorship?
Last year in May the name of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was changed to National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. There was considerably more controversy later in the year when the four characters representing the name of Chiang Kai-shek (大中至正) were removed from the main gate of the hall and replaced with Freedom Square (自由廣場). (See Four characters removed from Democracy Hall and Freedom at last).
While at Democracy Hall today I visited an exhibition titled “Glimpses of Democracy” (百年民主). I was shocked to see that on the posters for the exhibition the words “Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall” had been covered with tape. In some cases they were replaced with the words “National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall”.
Also the signs that had been placed in the grounds saying Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall had been removed and now there are only signs saying Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The exception being the plate above the main door of the hall containing the statue of Chiang Kai-shek. It still has the Chinese characters for Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (臺灣民主紀念館) inscribed on it.
This photo was taken today (29 August 2008).
The above photo shows the top of the same sign on 12 June 2007.
On 21 August 2008 Radio Taiwan International reported that the Ministry of Education had passed a law to revert the name back to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. It also said:
The education ministry said it would first ask the public about its opinion before the name change. During the next month, it would hold forums to ask the public whether the new signs on the hall should be changed back to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.
It seems the Ministry was so confident in the outcome of the public consultation that it didn’t wait for the results to come in. Unsurprising given the lack of respect they obviously have for democracy. Another report from the Taipei Times on 18 August says the Ministry planned to leave the four characters meaning “Freedom Square” on the main gate as “a gesture of reconciliation”.
It seems hard to imagine that in June last year the Hall was host to an exhibition titled “Bye-bye, Chiang Kai-shek!”. Now there is a shop in the Hall selling CKS memorabilia. It is a stark reminder that transitional justice is still an unfinished project in Taiwan.