The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government yesterday restored dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) name to National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in Taipei, reversing a move two years ago by the then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration to remove relics of authoritarianism.
The replacement of the plaque began at about 8:10am after some 300 police officers secured the hall with barricades overnight and put up an official document stating that the hall would be closed for 24 hours for “official business.”
Workers cut the granite plaque bearing the title “National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall” that hung over the main building into pieces. The removal was completed by noon, after which workers proceeded to reinstate the Chiang plaque.
The replacement project is expected to have cost NT$1.1 million (US$33,000), said the Ministry of Education, which is in charge of the restauration.
In 2007, the DPP administration renamed the memorial National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. It also changed the inscription dazhong zhizheng (大中至正) to “Liberty Square” (自由廣場) and redecorated the hall.
At the time, the pan-blue camp called the removal of Chiang’s plaque illegal, as the legislature had not abolished the Organic Act of CKS Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂組織條例) or passed a proposed act concerning the organization of the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall.
The removal of Chiang’s plaque led to physical clashes between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.
During the pan-blue-dominated legislature’s review of government budget proposals in January, lawmakers passed a resolution saying that the ministry should complete reinstatement of the Chiang plaque as soon as possible.
“We decided to reinstate the Chiang Kai-shek plaque today in accordance with the law. We also decided, after gauging the views of opinionmakers in different sectors, to retain the ‘Liberty Square’ inscription,” Vice Minister of Education Lu Mu-lin (呂木琳) told a press conference yesterday.
Lu was referring to the three forums in which academics and experts on politics, sociology, community management and urban development deliberated over how to resolve the controversy surrounding the name of the hall.
“This compromise should contribute to social harmony,” he said.
Lu said the ministry had done everything it could to properly plan and execute the plaque change, adding that on many occasions the ministry had told the public the replacement would take place this month.
“We understand that people have different memories of and emotional reactions to [Chiang], but we also hope that everyone will respect and tolerate different opinions and promote social harmony,” Lu said.
In a press release, the ministry said it supported the creation of a hall to showcase the nation’s efforts at democratization.
“But replacing the Chiang plaque with National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in an illegal and undemocratic fashion was not a manifestation of Taiwan’s democracy. Instead, it was ironic,” it said.
DPP Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) was forcefully evicted after he slipped through the barbed wire barricades. A small number of pro-independence supporters shouted “police violence” and “death to Dictator Ma” as police took him away.
At 2pm, only 11 protesters remained at the sit-in, including two Buddhist monks, an elderly man and a small child.