Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chiang state rites plan nets outrage

DIVIDED REACTION While some analysts thought that a state funeral for the former strongmen would help unite the nation, others said the KMT should help foot the bill

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

After decades of lying embalmed in temporary mausoleums, the bodies of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), can finally be laid to rest following a request made by Chiang Ching-kuo's widow, Faina Chiang Fang-liang (蔣方良), to have the two buried in the military mausoleum on Wuchih Mountain in northern Taiwan.

The move has in general received approval from members of the ruling and opposition parties, with many political commentators interpreting it as a symbolic shift of the Chiang family's roots. But the proposal to bury the two according to the State Funeral Law (國葬法) remains controversial, despite the Presidential Office's support for such official rites.

Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political commentator and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine, questioned whether another state funeral is necessary, given the manner and scope of the ceremonial funeral which took place when Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975. Other public observances of the death included a period during which all TV programs were changed to air only in black and white, and flags were lowered to half-mast for nearly a month.

"The scope of the funeral and ceremony carried out then was far grander than a so-called state funeral -- it was of emperor-level ostentation and extravagance," Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君) said.

Saying that the government has already performed "the most grand and splendid farewell ceremonies" for both Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo when they died, Chien Lin said "It is unreasonable to take taxpayers' money to hold a state funeral again."

Given that Chiang Kai-shek was the president of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and that Chiang Ching-kuo was its former party chairman, Chien Lin suggested that the KMT should help chip in with funds needed to carry out a state funeral if one does take place.

According to the State Funeral Law, which was passed in 1948, a public figure is eligible for state funeral consideration when a proposal "is approved by more than half of all committee members of the Executive Yuan by secret ballot."

Among other provisions, the State Funeral Law stipulates that "the ceremony of the state funeral be carried out under the instruction of the president."

"Would people accept the move to lower the flag to half-staff [for Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo]?" Chin asked, citing events such as the 228 Incident and the White Terror era. These murderous events took place under the reign of Chiang Kai-shek and left a profound scar on the minds of many Taiwanese, Chin said.

The 228 Incident refers to the ruthless military crackdown on civilian protests on Feb. 28, 1947, against the KMT administration. Historians estimate that up to 30,000 people were killed.

The White Terror lasted for 38 years, starting when the Taiwan Military Garrison Command (警備總部) declared martial law in Taiwan on May 20, 1949. This was the period during which dissidents were persecuted under the reign of Chiang Kai-shek.

Tossing in a different perspective, political commentator Chen Li-hung (陳立宏) said the move to bury the two men with a state funeral can help unite a divided society.

"The 2004 presidential election campaign exhausted and divided the society with partisan disputes and ethnic divisions," said Chen Li-hung. "The opportunity to bury the two former presidents in state funeral style according to the existing State Funeral Law can help mitigate the political standoff between the pan-green and pan-blue camps and help stitch the society's ethnic divide."

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