Tue, Mar 21, 2006 - Page 1 News List

CKS statue proposal generates uproar

FIGURE FUROR Pan-blue legislators are furious at an MND proposal to remove statues of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo from military bases nationwide

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A proposal by the Ministry of National Defense to remove statues of the dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) from military bases drew harsh criticism from pan-blue legislators yesterday.

The ministry proposed removing old and eroded statues of Chiang Kai-shek and his son, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), from military bases nationwide. The story came to light after the decision was leaked to Chinese-language newspapers. But because of the sensitivity of the issue, the ministry would not disclose who made the decision.

"Neither President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) nor Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) ordered the military to remove the statues," Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) told the legislative National Defense Committee yesterday, after pan-blue lawmakers pressed him to say who made the decision.

Diehard pan-blue supporters immediately launched into hyperbolic attacks on the proposal.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民) said the proposal risked creating something similar to China's Cultural Revolution -- a period in which thousands were killed and much of China's cultural heritage was destroyed as Mao Zedong (毛澤東) used fanatical students to purge the Chinese Communist Party to support the creation of a cult of personality.

He said the government and the military should honor history, and that the statues did not contribute to the politicization of the military.

The Presidential Office yesterday dismissed media reports that Chen had ordered the move.

David Lee (李南陽), director-general of the Department of Public Affairs at the Presidential Office, said that Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) and the defense ministry had already dismissed the allegation.

Cho said on Sunday that it made sense to erase the marks that the authoritarian KMT regime had left on the nation's military. As for how and when this should be done, Cho said that the Presidential Office left this to the Executive Yuan and the defense ministry.

Taiwan's military has many symbolic remnants from the KMT authoritarian state era, from unit and service insignia that use the party's logo, a white sun on a blue background, to songs urging soldiers to "retake the sacred motherland [China]."

KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) compared Chiang Kai-shek to a rebel general during the US Civil War.

He said that a statue of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a Confederate Army general who fought for the secessionist states during the US Civil War, stands to this day in the Virginia Military Institute. Why then, he asked, should a statue of Chiang Kai-shek, the founder of the Whampoa Military Academy, be removed?

The original Whampoa Military Academy was founded by Chiang Kai-shek in 1924 in Guangzhou Province. After the KMT was defeated and fled to Taiwan, the school was relocated to Fengshan, Kaohsiung County.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said he agreed that Chiang Kai-shek's statues should remain at the Whampoa Military Academy. But, he said, his other statues should be removed from military bases, because they are not appropriate for a democratic state.

The proposal to remove the statues is part of a wider program to depoliticize the military begun in 2000. Other proposals include discontinuing the use of Chinese and KMT symbols.

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