Sun, Dec 09, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Inscription goes up at Democracy Hall

`LIBERTY SQUARE' Despite opposition from the city government, work on the front side of the arch was finished last night to cheers and jeers from rival camps

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese characters ziyou guangchang, or Liberty Square, are pictured after being placed on the main gate to National Taiwan Democracy Hall yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

The new inscription on the National Taiwan Democracy Hall's main arch made its debut last night when the final bolt was hammered in at 6:03pm to install the Chinese characters ZIYOU GUANGCHANG (自由廣場) on the front side of the arch, officially renaming the plaza "Liberty Square."

The Ministry of Education said that installation of the inscription on both sides of the arch, as well as the new name plaque on the main hall, was to be completed before midnight yesterday.

Supporters celebrated with champagne and a lion's dance, while protesters heckled when work on the front side of the arch was finished.

RESTRAINING ORDER

The ministry said earlier that the new name plaque would not be installed until 10am today as it had to suspend work on the project for 24 hours on Friday when the Taipei City Government's Department of Labor issued a restraining order to halt work on the project, citing safety risks.

The ministry's secretary-general, Chuang Kuo-rong (莊國榮), blamed Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) for the delay, calling him the instigator of the "blue terror" with his "incessant and illegal interference" in the project.

"It is puzzling why Hau is so obsessed and infatuated with a past dictatorship," Chuang said.

However, work on the project resumed yesterday.

When asked if the ministry plans to pay the NT$1 million (US$31,000) fine that the city's Department of Cultural Affairs imposed on Friday for tampering with the plaque and the inscription without the city's approval, Chuang said the ministry was "not afraid of the city" because it was a "law-abiding" party, while Hau had been a "habitual law breaker."

REOPENING

The plaza, formerly known as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, is expected to be reopened to the public at 10am tomorrow after the new marble name tablet is safely installed, Chuang said.

The square has been completely sealed off with a barricade of barbed wires since Thursday to accommodate the construction work.

While the Democratic Progressive Party and its supporters lauded the change as a milestone in the country's democratic development and a symbolic finale to an authoritarian era, the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lambasted the government for ushering in a new "authoritarian regime" that has sacrificed a historic site for political gain.

The debate over the name change of the hall has been a marathon tug-o-war between the city government and the central government since May, when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) called for action to remove any artifacts related to late dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正).

The conflict heightened when the central and the city governments both claimed jurisdiction over the memorial hall. The city government has said it will not stop pursuing legal action against the ministry until it has been brought to justice for vandalizing a historic site.

The name change and the removal of the inscription have been marred by intermittent altercations since construction began three days ago. The most severe clash occurred on Thursday when a pickup truck driver mowed down a group of reporters, leaving ETTV cameraman Wang Jui-chang (王瑞璋) with critical injuries, including multiple lacerations, rib fractures and severe internal hemorrhaging.

The National Taiwan University Hospital said yesterday that Wang would undergo surgery on Monday to repair his shattered rib cage in a bid to stop the bleeding. A Central News Agency report said that Wang was out of critical condition and was able to swallow liquids.

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