A history camp planned by the student association of National Chengchi University’s history department has been criticized as a brainwashing campaign after a press release praised Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
Titled “Images, Lives and Histories,” the university’s third history camp will take place from July 8 to July 10, and is open to 50 senior-high school students. Each participant will have to pay a registration fee of NT$2,500.
However, the camp sparked criticism after the association issued a press release saying: “The event seeks to let the exploits of important historical figures, including former presidents Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo, unfold vividly in front of the eyes of young pupils and the public through multimedia systems.”
“It also endeavors to allow students to learn about major historical events and the evolution of the country in a light-hearted manner ... in an effort to facilitate and promote history education,” it said.
Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps executive director Yang Yueh-ching (楊月清) said she was astonished by the way the press release hailed the Chiangs.
“It turns out that brainwashing campaigns still exist in Taiwan in 2013 and continue to attempt to instill one-sided history in the nation’s youth,” Yang said. “I am not saying that the two Chiangs are taboo subjects, but the history camp’s program should at least focus on both their achievements and faults.”
Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽), emeritus professor at Chang Jung Christian University’s Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies, took to Facebook to vent his anger.
“Taiwan is experiencing a rapid retrogression. Its educational sector has not only abandoned the nation’s localization achievements, but has also distorted its values. We deplore those who sing the praises of autocrats,” Chuang wrote on his Facebook page.
Citing a famous quote by Taiwanese writer Wu Cho-liu (吳濁流), Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰), a professor at National Taipei University’s Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture, said “ass-kissing is not history.”
The association has since retracted the release and issued another saying: “The camp will invite history teachers to recount key events in Taiwanese history from the War of Resistance Against Japan to the Chinese Civil War and from the Chinese Nationalist Party’s [KMT] retreat to Taiwan to the nation’s post-war developments.”
A member of the association who spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday said that after receiving complaints from netizens over its first press release the group decided to change the press release to avoid further controversy, though the camp focuses on other historical figures as well.