Recent Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School graduates yesterday complained to the media that the school had failed to safeguard its students’ rights to freedom of expression by forcing them to remove a set of futuristic armor, including a helmet, they had placed on a statue of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) on their campus.
Following a school tradition, seniors had decorated the statue for the June 6 commencement ceremony, the former students said in a letter to the Central News Agency, the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) and other media outlets.
The graduating seniors were told to take down the decorations as soon as the ceremony was over because the school did not want to receive a flood of complaints from the public, the letter said.
The students were told the school “had been overwhelmed by demands” from the public and alumni to restore the statue to its original state, the letter said.
This armor and helmet had won favorable reviews, the graduates said, adding that they had hoped to keep the decorations up until the national college entrance exam early next month for test-takers and their parents to enjoy.
The new graduates reluctantly followed orders and removed the decorations on June 13, but said that the school’s decision was “autocratic,” the letter said.
“The faculty should allow students the freedom of creativity and expression. It is as though we have returned to the Martial Law era,” they said.
Academic affairs director Tsai Che-ming (蔡哲銘) said the school has long defended criticism about students’ decorating the statue by explaining that it is part of the school’s decorations for the commencement ceremony.
The high school receives complaints every year about Chiang’s statue being decorated and this year was no different, Tsai said.
In previous years, the decorations were removed following the ceremony, he said. The school did not force graduates to remove the decorations prematurely, he said, adding that the controversy could have stemmed from a misunderstanding.