Sun Yat-sen’s (孫逸仙) designation as the nation’s “founding father” should be dropped, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said yesterday, pledging to push for legislation to remove the legal requirement that Sun’s portrait be displayed in public buildings.
Gao said that Sun’s title as the nation’s “founding father” is a remnant of one-party rule under the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian regime and ran against democratic principles.
Legal mentions of the designation are seen only in connection with the national flag, he said, citing the National Emblem and National Flag of the Republic of China Act (中華民國國徽國旗法) and the Oath Act (宣誓條例).
The National Emblem Act states that the national flag should be placed “above the portrait of the father of the nation” in government buildings, while the Oath Act mandates that officials taking the oath of office should face both the national flag and the “portrait of the father of the nation.”
While the flag is a symbol of the nation whose status is mandated in the Constitution, Sun’s status as “founding father” was crafted by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) as a tool to justify the legitimacy of his regime, Gao said, questioning why leaders should be obligated to bow before something that has no relation to Taiwan’s modern democratic society.
While requirements mandating that portraits of Chiang and his son, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), be displayed in schools were abolished in 2002, the KMT had previously blocked legislation to drop requirements to display Sun’s portrait, Gao said.
Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰), a professor at National Taipei University of Education’s Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture, echoed Gao’s proposal, saying that Sun was only designated as the “founding father” in 1940 as part of an executive order intended to whitewash Chiang Kai-shek’s distortion of history and bolster his claim of being Sun’s successor.
While Sun made an undeniable contribution to the 1911 Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty, the revolution’s success also depended on many other people, Lee said, adding that Sun should be removed from the “cult of personality” built around him by Chiang Kai-shek.
Earlier this month, Kaohsiung Municipal Senior High School announced it would no longer make its students bow to portraits of Sun and the national flag in its end-of-semester ceremony.
Bowing three times to the flag and Sun’s portrait during school ceremonies has been a tradition for students in elementary, junior-high and high schools.
The school’s principal said the move was not politically motivated, while a student council called it a step toward depoliticizing the campus and achieving transitional justice.
A series of discussions on the legacy of martial law and authoritarianism are to be held at the Taipei International Book Exhibition this month, featuring findings and analysis by the Transitional Justice Commission. The commission and publisher Book Republic organized the series, entitled “Escaping the Nation’s Labyrinth of Memory: What Authoritarian Symbols and Records Can Tell Us,” to help people navigate narratives through textual analysis and comparisons with other nations. The four-day series is to begin on Thursday next week with a discussion between commission Chairwoman Yang Tsui (楊翠), Polish-language translator Lin Wei-yun (林蔚昀), and Polish author and artist Pawel Gorecki comparing
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