Plaque bearing the Chinese characters for Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (photo taken 19 January 2009)
The Taipei Times today reports that the military honor guard has been restored to the hall in central Taipei which contains a large statue honoring former dictator Chiang Kai-shek. The guards were earlier removed by the DPP government when it changed the name of the hall to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall.
This follows the Legislative Yuan recently passing a resolution to remove the name plaque with the Chinese characters for Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (臺灣民主紀念館) and replace them with the plaque reading Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂). I earlier posted about the KMT government officially reverting the name of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in August 2008. The government says it has no plan to remove the four characters for Freedom Square (自由廣場) from the main gate of the Hall.
The DPP was criticised for its handling of the name change in 2007. However, the KMT has shown a complete disregard for public opinion and avoided any public consultation over the issue. This article in the Taipei Times on Thursday quoted Vice Minister of Education Lu Mu-lin (呂木琳) as saying this was because the majority of experts invited to a separate forum on educational issues felt that a forum gauging public opinion on the plaque change could increase tensions between supporters of different political parties. In other words because the name change would be vigourously opposed they would just avoid holding any discussions on the issue.
The Taipei Times had an excellent editorial on Friday condemning the government for its actions.
With the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) so singularly unwilling to conduct even the slightest iota of reflection on its continued unwavering worship of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) — a man considered by most of the rest of the world as a corrupt, megalomaniac butcher — it seems Taiwanese will never experience transitional justice of any form.
The biggest hurdle to this is that there are still far too many people in high office — including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — who owe everything to the cronyism and patronage networks that were constructed under the Chiang dynasty. Until such people fall from grace — something that does not look likely to happen anytime soon — Taiwan and those whose families suffered at the hands of the Chiangs during the 228 Incident and the ensuing White Terror will continue to be denied a chance for truth and reconciliation.
Instead, they will have to endure the prospect of daily encounters with the countless statues, memorials and places dedicated to the dead dictator that dot the nation.
Although the current KMT government was democratically elected its actions clearly show it values dictatorship more than democracy. The KMT is showing a blatant disregard for the very people that elected it to government by continuing to honor a man who unleashed decades of terror on Taiwan. Its actions must be condemned by all who value Taiwan’s democracy.