Following a standoff between supporters and protesters at the Tang Te-chang Park in Greater Tainan yesterday, the Greater Tainan Government announced that it would delay a plan to relocate a statue of Republic of China founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙).
The controversy over the statue started in early February, when Northern Taiwan Society executive head Sherry Huang (黃淑純) complained that there was only a half-lifesize statue of 228 Incident hero Tang Te-chang (湯德章) on the periphery of the park, while a full-size bronze statue of Sun was prominently placed in the center.
Tang was a lawyer in Tainan during the 228 Incident and was burning a list of names of people who participated in the activities of the local Settlement Committee when Nationalist soldiers showed up to arrest him.
He was severely beaten while he put up a fierce resistance in a bid to allow the list to be burned completely. He was executed the following day.
His actions saved the lives of a number of leading Tainan residents and students whose names were on the list.
The 228 Incident refers to an uprising in 1947 against the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime and the resulting brutal crackdown that left tens of thousands dead, and led to nearly four decades of martial law.
The city government had originally planned to relocate Sun’s statue to the Ka Ba Sua Elementary School’s Shueiyun campus in Dongshan District (東山) on Friday.
The KMT caucus in the city council, as well as the Greater Tainan KMT headquarters branch, strongly condemned the move and also criticized Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai’s (賴清德) actions.
The KTM city councilors took turns standing beside Sun’s statue to guard against it being removed and their resolve was bolstered by visits from others who protested against the decision to remove the statue.
There was even a flower basket allegedly sent by Sun’s granddaughter, Lily Sui-fong Sun (孫穗芳), reading: “Many thanks to the people of Tainan who stood guard for my family.”
City government supporters waved banners in front of the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature, which is near the park, and said that the city government was right in giving Tang justice because he was a victim of the 228 Incident.
Seeing the banners, protesters made a banner of their own, reading: “The founding father also wants his living rights.”
Meanwhile, the city government took down the scaffolding that had been erected around the statue and announced a delay in the relocation, but said that the relocation was inevitable.
The relocation is to safeguard the rights of residents and to protect a historical relic, the city government said, adding that other counties and cities had done the same thing.
The relocation of statues to be collectively stored in one location is very common, the city government said, adding that the relocation of the statue had nothing to do with politics.
The decision was completely legal and we would like to ask for the support of residents, the city government said.