An official Presidential Office news release on April 5 had this to say: “This morning, on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the death of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) went to Chiang’s mausoleum in Taoyuan County’s Cihu Township (慈湖) to pay their respects.”
At 10am, Ma arrived at the mausoleum and presided over a ceremony outside in which fresh flowers were placed at the site and where attendants bowed and then observed a moment of silence. After this, Ma and Wu entered the mausoleum to pay further respects to Chiang.
With the president and vice president both paying their deepest respects and expressing feelings of bereavement for Chiang, a former dictator and murderer, it is safe to say that no other killer in world history has ever been accorded the amount of respect that Chiang has.
Before this, when the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee was reviewing amendments to the Regulations for Handling of and Compensation for the 228 Incident (二二八事件處理及補償條例), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said that the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was planning a product design competition. For this competition, participants would be invited to submit designs for various creative products inspired by the “happy marriage” and “happy family life” of the former dictator and his last wife, Soong Mayling (宋美齡).
Tuan criticized this plan, saying that Chiang presided over the 228 Incident and the White Terror era and was therefore responsible for ripping marriages — and in some cases entire families — apart, not to mention the disappearances of many people.
The competition was called off after Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) requested that the memorial hall cancel the plan, although another member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee still came to Chiang’s defense, saying that without Chiang there would be no KMT.
In response, Ma remarked that history must be looked at objectively, that one must empathize with those who lost their families in these massacres and that nobody should attempt to deny that events such as the White Terror era and the 228 Incident happened.
However, Ma also reportedly said that it is hard to judge a historical figure from just one point of view, but that one must clearly differentiate between right and wrong if the pain caused is to be eased, and if we want the world to know that Taiwan is capable of self-reflection.
Nevertheless, not long after uttering these words, Ma went straight to the mausoleum in Cihu to pay his respects.
So just what sort of differentiation between right and wrong is that meant to be? And just what angle was Ma viewing this particular historical figure from? Was Ma not rubbing salt into the wounds of those who lost their families in these massacres?
Whether we are talking about the 228 Incident or the White Terror era, Chiang was always the killer, while the people of Taiwan were his victims. This is an established historical fact. On the one hand, Ma says we need to empathize with those who lost family members in these massacres, but then he also runs off to Cihu each year to pay his respects to Chiang.
At the same time, Ma has also long given up on Chiang’s goal of shazhu bamao (殺朱拔毛) — a play on words referring to killing then-People’s Liberation Army general Zhu De (朱德) and getting rid of then-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong (毛澤東.)