In response to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators' proposal that statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) be removed from military premises, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman recently said that the armed forces venerated Chiang's historical status and his contributions to the nation's armed forces, but that statues of Chiang would be moved to more appropriate locations to protect them from erosion by the weather.
The spokesman added that the ministry had decided to remove around 200 statues of Chiang from military bases ahead of the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident at the end of this month.
On a daily basis, Taiwanese have to use roads and bridges named "Chungcheng," (
Students attend elementary, junior and senior high schools and universities bearing his name.
On a leisurely weekend one might take a stroll in a park named Chungcheng.
And one of Taipei's major tourist attractions is Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Wherever we turn there is a statue of Chiang Kai-shek, and in the past we were expected to bow to these images.
In addition, many of us have learned from school textbooks that the dictator was the "savior of the nation and a hero of the world."
It used to be that any mention of Chiang in print required calling him "Grandpa Chiang" and leaving a blank space in front of his name.
In the past, we also had to leave through Chiang Kai-shek International Airport on trips abroad.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) turned Chiang into an extraordinary figure through education, imagery and symbols.
As a result, Chiang has been held in great reverence as a national hero.
But historical records suggest that Chiang was the prime culprit responsible for the killings of tens of thousands of the local elite 60 years ago, bringing a heavy grief to the Taiwanese and forcing them to spend many sleepless nights in fear of what could happen.
Taiwan is a democracy now. We must ask ourselves the meaning of keeping Chiang as a national symbol.
Chiang was not the founder of the nation and committed grave crimes.
However, memorials to Chiang are much more common than such references to former presidents Chiang Ching-kuo (
Chiang was one of the world's most notorious dictators.
A report on the 228 Incident released last year concluded that he was responsible.
For these reasons, the government should make adjustments to what is clearly a disproportionate and unreasonable reverence.
When considering how to commemorate late presidents, the government could look to other democratic countries for examples.
We do not necessarily have to obliterate all symbols related to Chiang Kai-shek. We could commemorate Chiang in a reasonable manner rather than negating everything he did.
The government should therefore consider the feelings of various ethnic groups and come up with a solution acceptable to everyone.
For example, it could reserve a single memorial park or hall in honor of Chiang, while the education system should present him objectively by presenting the historical facts instead of focusing on making him into a heroic symbol.
Huang Chong-you is chairman of Taiwan Young Intellectuals.
Translated by Daniel Cheng
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