Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall must be redefined: culture minister

Taipei--Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun (???) said Tuesday that National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was a "controversial space" that needed to be re-characterized but she stopped short of giving any new proposals for the use of the complex.

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was established during an authoritarian period to commemorate an authoritarian ruler but in this age of democracy it is seen as a "controversial space," Cheng told reporters after an annual event at Taipei's Gikong Presbyterian Church to commemorate the 228 Incident.

"In an effort to confront our history and wounds and respect the value of human rights, we hope to officially draft a bill to re-characterize National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall," said Cheng, whose ministry manages the monument.

She said her ministry believes that drafting a law would be a more systematic way of redefining the purpose of the complex and deciding on issues such as the possible relocation of the Chiang statues there. The Ministry of Culture hopes to submit a draft bill to the Legislature before the end of the current session , according to Cheng.

Asked about a suggestion by Minister without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (???) that the CKS complex should be used to house the Legislature, Cheng said she hoped to see more public discussions on transitional justice, which would include ideas for alternative uses of the monument.

Addressing speculations that the proposed re-characterization of the complex was aimed at "removing vestiges of Chiang," the minister said that was not the case.

Instead, it is an attempt to "remove vestiges of authoritarianism," Cheng said.

The task of transitional justice also includes putting forth the historical facts, clarifying who was responsible for the 228 massacre, redressing wrongs, compensating the victims and their families, and most importantly, implementing human rights education, she said.

The 228 Incident was triggered by a clash between government officials and a cigarette vendor in Taipei on Feb. 27, 1947. The confrontation soon turned into an anti-government uprising that was brutally put down by the then Kuomintang (KMT) government.

An estimated 18,000 to 28,000 people, many of them members of the intellectual elite, were killed during the crackdown, which lasted for several weeks into early May.

Chiang was chairman of the Nationalist government from 1943-1948 and president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) from 1948-1975.

The memorial hall, a 250,000-square-meter complex in Taipei's affluent Zhongzheng District, was opened to the public in 1980.

However, each year as Feb. 28 approaches, there are usually reports of vandalism of the Chiang statues at the complex, and this year was no exception.

On Tuesday, Free Taiwan Party Chairman Tsai Ting-kuey (???) led a protest in Liberty Square in front of the monument, rejecting authoritarian symbols and calling for the Chiang statues to be toppled.

The protesters came up against police blockades and got into a shouting match with pro-China groups.

Meanwhile, four people were arrested Tuesday at Fu Jen Catholic University when protesters, including students, attempted to take down a statue of Chiang on the campus.

The four individuals were handed over to prosecutors on charges of obstructing police officers in the discharge of their duties.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel