Decapitation of statues of historical figures has gone from intermittent to incessant, fueled by a highly vindictive mindset that has plagued the pan-green camp, which looks at Japan through rose-tinted glasses, and the pan-blue camp, which continues to put dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) on a pedestal.
The statue war started decades ago with an “annual ritual” involving seemingly harmless acts of vandalism against Chiang’s sculptures close to the anniversary date of the 228 Incident, such as covering the statues with red paint, or spraying them with the words “dictator” or “murderer.”
The ritual has gained particularly strong momentum in schools, with students launching a movement that seeks to turn Chiang statues on campuses into “art installations” on Feb. 28 as a way of mourning the tens of thousands of victims of the atrocities committed by Chiang’s regime during the 228 Massacre and the ensuing White Terror era.
Such vandalism has no doubt played an instrumental role in raising public awareness about state violence in the past and the importance of pursuing long-overdue transitional justice in Taiwan.
Perhaps without these acts of vandalism, the need to right past wrongs and remove remnants of authoritarianism could easily have been overshadowed by talk about economic development and abandoned in favor of “more practical goals.”
However, last month matters escalated when a group of anonymous people vowed to “chop off the heads of Chiang’s statues nationwide.”
The movement quickly attracted followers who beheaded Chiang sculptures throughout the nation.
A pro-independence group called the Taiwan Nation Founding Engineering Team became its most prominent representative when it carried out several terrorist-style beheadings of Chiang statues, and in a statement claimed responsibility and denounced the worship of political idols.
The decapitation of Chiang statues is nothing new. In 2003, a seated statue of Chiang on Taoyuan’s National Central University campus was beheaded. A Chiang sculpture in a Keelung City park met the same fate in 2015. However, whereas such beheadings were extremely rare in the past, they have now become an almost weekly occurrence.
This prompted vengeance from the pan-blue camp earlier this month, when China Unification Promotion Party member Lee Cheng-lung (李承龍) beheaded a statue of Japanese engineer Yoichi Hatta in Tainan.
Quests for vengeance seldom go unanswered, and the Taiwan Nation Founding Engineering Team quickly fought back by beheading a Chiang statue in Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park last weekend. If nothing is done, this might set off a vicious cycle.
What should President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) do to prevent the situation from spinning out of control, further dividing an already polarized nation?
It would be unwise for Tsai to be seen as tacitly approving, or worse, encouraging vandalism against Chiang statues while being tough on people who destroy statues of Japanese historical figures. The best solution would be to adopt equal standards.
The Tsai administration should denounce vandalism against targets belonging to either camp — just as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) did after the Hatta incident. There should be no differential treatment for culprits.
The government should urge the public to stop destroying Chiang statues and try to expedite the passage of a draft act on transitional justice in the legislature that would provide a legal basis for the nationwide removal of the dictator’s sculptures.
After all, the nation prides itself on its rule of law and its democracy. Failure to abide by such principles would only stain the Tsai administration’s pursuit of transitional justice.
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday last week announced it would impose sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a vast paramilitary organization that is directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has been linked to human rights violations against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions follow US travel bans against other Xinjiang officials and the passage of the US Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which authorizes targeted sanctions against mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials, in response to Beijing’s imposition of national security legislation on the territory. The sanctions against the corps would be implemented
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose