Sun, May 20, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Minor clashes as CKS hall renamed

NEW ERA Amid isolated umbrella fencing, mud slinging and shouting matches, the president and victims of the KMT's authoritarian rule unveiled a new plaque at the hall

By Loa Iok-sin and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH AGENCIES

A policeman holds up a coat to cover the private parts of an old man who dropped his pants and shouted ''Chen Shui-bian has no balls'' to protest the renaming of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall during a name change ceremony yesterday.


Amid demonstrations staged by people in favor of and opposing the name change, the Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Memorial Hall was officially renamed the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (國立台灣民主紀念館) yesterday.

The new plaque was unveiled by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who said the move symbolized an end to the country's authoritarian past.

"We're gathering here ... to bid goodbye to the old age and to show that we Taiwanese are all standing firmly behind the universal values of freedom, democracy and human rights," Chen said.

He also explained the significance of the date.

"Fifty-eight years ago, on this date, May 19, the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] regime ... officially declared martial law in Taiwan, which lasted 38 years," Chen said.

Meanwhile, in the outer regions of the hall's grounds, hundreds of supporters of and opponents to the name change held demonstrations.

Scattered brawls were reported and TV footage showed a Chen supporter and several protesters hitting each other with umbrellas before police intervened.

Barbed wire barricades were erected and ETTV reported that 700 police officers had been deployed at the scene. Law enforcement authorities declined to confirm those numbers.

A group of people in favor of the name change parading on their way to welcome Chen before the ceremony were shouted at and attacked by opponents and mud was thrown at a truck leading the parade.

Police quickly put an end to the altercation.

After the ceremony, opponents of the name change attempted to damage the new name plaque. Scuffles and verbal clashes again broke out and police intervened.

Minutes after Chen's speech, survivors of the 228 Incident gathered around the hall, to cheers from Chen supporters and jeers by his detractors.

The 228 Incident refers to the uprising that began on Feb. 27, 1947, against the KMT regime. Tens of thousands of Taiwanese were subsequently killed by the KMT in a security crackdown.

After the official unveiling of the plaque, Chen, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) visited an exhibition of pictures and documents from the martial law period inside the memorial hall.

A group of former political prisoners and their families welcomed the president in the hall.

"I welcome the name change, it's a small step toward justice," said Wu Sheng-jun (吳聲潤), a former political prisoner.

Wu was arrested in 1950 and imprisoned for 12 years for conspiracy because of complaints about the government he made while chatting with friends. "Someone just reported on me," he said.

"When the KMT arrived in Taiwan, my friends and I came all the way back from Japan just to welcome them ... I couldn't believe, then, that I was being jailed just because I had complained about the government," Wu said.

He said he disagreed with claims by pan-blue camp politicians that the name change was a move to stir up ethnic tension.

"Many Mainlanders were also victims of Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) authoritarian regime, two out of five political prisoners were Mainlanders. We all suffered under Chiang," he said.

To avoid causing damage to the structure of the memorial hall, the metal plaques, which bear the carving "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" -- in Chinese and English -- were put in the garden surrounding the building.

In a bid to prevent it from being altered, in March the Taipei City Government classified the 27-year-old memorial hall and its surrounding walls as a temporary historical site.

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