Non-governmental organizations yesterday urged the incoming Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government to establish a special independent commission, based on public opinion, to decide on the future name of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, previously known as Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which was controversially renamed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.
The Ministry of Education in December renamed the hall and changed the name of the giant plaza to Liberty Square, a move that drew protests from the KMT and its supporters.
Both president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and education minister-designate Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城) of the KMT, who will take office on May 20, have said they would decide how to deal with the issue based on public consensus.
“To echo the promise of the incoming administration, we call for civil society to play a role in this sensitive matter,” said Association of Mainlander Taiwanese chief executive Huang Luo-fei (黃洛斐) at a press conference.
Huang said some people fear that Ma’s government will follow the DDP’s example and arbitrarily use its administrative power to restore the hall’s former name, which she said might cause unrest among DPP supporters.
She said the incoming administration should establish a non-political, neutral commission composed of academics, elites and government officials, who would represent different voices as they review the issue.
“The number of government officials on the commission should not exceed half of the total members,” she said.
Huang said Ma should give the commission six months to one year to assess public opinion before making any recommendations, in order to keep the decision-making process free of political interference.
“To avoid more protests and social conflict, we must not try to resolve this issue solely on the basis of political ideology, as the DPP did when it renamed the hall,” Huang said.
He pointed to the national identity issue between KMT and DPP supporters, who hold very different views on the legacy of dictator and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), as the crux of the matter.
Chien Hsi-chieh (簡錫堦), director of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan, said the new government should use the opportunity to create an example of civil society at work, in which the ideological deadlock between the political camps could be broken by means of open discussion.
“In the past, the two parties manipulated the people, causing standoffs between citizens and groups [holding differing views],” Chien said, adding that he hoped to see the issue settled by public consensus, as Ma and Cheng have promised.