There was shouting, cursing and sporadic shoving yesterday as supporters and protesters gathered at the gateway to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, as a face-off between the central government and the Taipei City Government continued over the removal of a plaque referring to dictator Chiang Kai-shek (
The Ministry of Education obtained permission to remove the plaque, bearing the inscription dazhong zhizheng (大中至正), after Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (
The move has triggered strong protests from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP), some of whose members are Chiang loyalists and support Taiwan's eventual unification with China.
PHOTO: SAM YEH, AFP
While some family members of the victims of the 228 Incident staged a silent sit-in in support of the ministry's plan, dozens of protesters of MOE's decision launched 24-hour protests at the hall, shouting slogans and waving banners.
"We should not distort history. It is a waste of money to change the name. There are more urgent things for Chen Shui-bian's [
But supporters said that the change was essential.
"It's a necessary step in achieving transitional justice. Every country is doing it," a man surnamed Chen (陳) said. "It has only become such a controversy because the DPP isn't strong enough."
The amendment allowed the ministry to remove the plaque from midnight last night.
Earlier yesterday, the Taipei City Government laid roadblocks by the gateway to prevent cranes sent by the ministry from moving closer.
Taipei City Government Department of Cultural Affairs Director Lee Yung-ping (李永萍) and Department of Labor Director Su Ying-kuei (蘇盈貴) attempted to lead several workers to remove the scaffolds used by the ministry to cover the hall and scolded police deployed by the National Police Agency (NPA).
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) lambasted the central government yesterday, saying it seemed to have imposed "martial law" on the city by sending NPA officers to the hall without notifying the city government in advance.
"Deploying police without informing the city government is the same as a crackdown on the city government and residents," Hau said.
"Such behavior is the same as that of authoritarian countries when martial law is imposed," he said.
Hau was referring to the NPA dispatching some 120 police officers to surround the gateway on Tuesday night.
At a press conference, PFP Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) criticized Lee Wen-ming (黎文明), section chief of the NPA, saying that the agency should have turned down any request by Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) or other government chiefs to deploy officers at the hall for "personal or political reasons."
Lee defended his actions, saying that his agency had held meetings to discuss how to appropriately carry out all the tasks they had been assigned.
Chang, however, threatened to boycott the budget of any government agency that was involved in the removal of the inscription.
KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said at a separate setting yesterday that he would undo any removal or name change to the hall if he were elected next year.
Ma said the DPP was manipulating the issue for electoral purposes.
"The action is illegal, violates democracy and twists the Cultural Heritage Preservation Law (文化資產保存法)," he said.
Ma said that visitors from China and Japan are interested in relics related to Chiang Kai-shek and former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
"For Taiwan, these relics are part of Taiwanese history," he said.
A police official said yesterday that several DPP Taipei City councilors had applied to the city Police Department to hold rallies on the sidewalks surrounding the hall.
The application said the rallies would be held from yesterday to Dec. 15.
Huang Ching-fu (黃清福), head of the department's social order maintenance office, said the application had been approved.
Huang said police officers would be deployed at the rally site to prevent conflict between political opponents.
Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) said yesterday that the Executive Yuan respected the Taipei City Government's intention to file a constitutional interpretation on the matter.
However, Shieh said, all the decisions taken by the Executive Yuan were based upon regulations.
Approached by reporters for President Chen's position on the matter, Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓), director of the DPP's Culture and Information Department, said the four characters on the front gate were not Chiang Kai-shek's property and should not be used by any one party as a political totem or electoral label.
Hsieh said Ma should be grateful that the DPP had changed the hall to its current name because this had demonstrated the willingness of the DPP and families of the victims to forgive the KMT for the atrocities committed during its rule.
If Ma wanted to reinstate the inscription, he should inform the public as to whether the KMT would arrest people as it pleases, place them under custody or even kill them, Hsieh said.
Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling, Shih Hsiu-chuan and agencies"
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