A pro-independence group yesterday called for the complete removal of authoritarian symbols and the closure of mausoleums after they hurled red paint at the 6.3m-tall bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.
The defacement was carried out by several members of the pro-independence group From Ethnos to Nation at about 9:30am in front of visitors at the memorial hall.
The hall is the largest in the nation commemorating Chiang, despite his regime being blamed for the deaths of millions of people.
Photo: AFP / Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
The group also held up a banner that read: “Eliminate Chinese Tyranny, Build Taiwan’s Own Republic,” referring to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime that retreated from China to Taiwan in 1949 under Chiang’s leadership.
Police later arrested two protesters, who were to be turned over to prosecutors for further investigation, the Taipei Police Department’s Zhongzheng First Precinct said.
The incident came just hours before the Taoyuan District Court was scheduled to hold its first session on the group’s hurling of red paint at Chiang’s sarcophagus in Taoyuan’s Dasi District (大溪) on Feb. 28, the 71st anniversary of the 228 Incident, a bloody state-led crackdown against civilian demonstrations.
“We are perfectly aware that our actions today are not conducive to our court trial, but Taiwanese’s pursuit of independence, freedom, democracy and human rights has never been evaluated by the law,” the group said in a statement.
The essence of reconciliation is not making compromises to conservative forces opposed to change, nor is it maintaining the “status quo” out of a need for expediency or worries about causing social divisions, it said.
“True reconciliation lies in a promise to future generations that there will no longer be any worship of dictators and that there will be a new, independent nation ruled by freedom and democracy,” the group said.
The group made several demands, including the complete removal of authoritarian symbols; the closure of the mausoleums of Chiang and his son former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國); an end to the “worship of dictators” using government resources; and ending the practice of using authoritarian legacies for tourism.
It also called for the termination of the “Republic of China [ROC] regime” and for the establishment of a new nation.
KMT Culture and Communications Committee deputy director-general Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) said that the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Ministry of Culture — which is in charge of the hall — should take full responsibility for the failure to protect monuments and for “evoking criminal tendencies in people.”
“Over the past two years, the Tsai administration has sought to erase symbols of Chiang Kai-shek in disregard of his dedication to Taiwan, twisting and ignoring facts to help achieve that goal under the banner of transitional justice,” Hung said.
The ministry said that periodic paint-hurling incidents underscore the public’s urgency to see transitional justice realized.
“However, the hall’s operation is governed by the Organization Act of National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Management Office (國立中正紀念堂管理處組織法), the existence of which is like an intangible statue,” the ministry said.
The ministry said it plans to submit a bill to the Executive Yuan by the end of this year for the hall’s transformation, adding that public hearings would be held to expand public participation.
The Transitional Justice Commission, which was inaugurated in May, said that incidents like yesterday’s were the result of the nation’s long-delayed realization of transitional justice.
The incident “shows that Taiwanese society is now at a critical moment,” the commission said.
“We must seriously reflect on the existence of authoritarian symbols and jointly explore ways to remove them so that we can bring about true freedom and democracy in the nation,” it said.
The commission said it would soon submit proposals to Premier William Lai (賴清德) and the public regarding how the memorial hall could be transformed.
Additional reporting by Ling Mei-hsueh
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