The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a symbol of autocracy and the public should decide how it can be better used, academics and legislators of the New Power Party (NPP) said yesterday as they called on the incoming government of president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to set transitional justice in motion as Tsai promised during her election campaign.
NPP Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said that the memorial, a massive edifice located in downtown Taipei, is ironic from the perspective of transitional justice.
However, Hsu said that he is against the idea of demolishing the building, as many people whose family members were victims of the 228 Incident and the ensuing White Terror era have suggested, as it would only serve to aggravate the tensions between the pan-green and pan-blue camps.
He said that promoting transitional justice should not be a top-down effort, but rather one that requires public consensus.
Hsu said that the memorial hall would inevitably be torn down in about 20 years to meet the needs of urban development and that he hopes until that day the building can serve as a place where younger generations can learn about the nation’s totalitarian past.
Feng Chia University assistant professor Hsin Nien-feng (辛年豐) said that the hall is a symbol of authoritarianism and imperialism built on public land, and that its pillars sculpted in the shape of lions bearing messages convey the Chiang family’s desire for a hereditary regime.
He questioned the legitimacy of commemorating Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), whom he called a dictator who violated democratic values and human rights.
He said that the reinvention of the memorial hall should be a process of democratic values overthrowing authoritarianism, and democracy consolidated through legislative discussion.
Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology assistant professor Charles Lo (羅承宗) said that Tsai’s administration should follow the precedent set by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) in 2007 when her administration moved Chiang’s statue in the then-Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center to the Tzuhu (慈湖) Presidential Burial Place in Taoyuan and renamed the park the Kaohsiung Cultural Center.
Lo said that not just officials, but also civilians had made remarkable contributions to the nation and that the building should be transformed into a memorial dedicated to all those historical figures.
He said the memorial hall managed by the Ministry of Culture has been used for commercial activities, such as holding dinosaur exhibitions, and that the complex would be more welcoming for visitors if the complex’s space is utilized better, and the National Theater and National Concert Hall — both also managed by the ministry — were allocated more exhibition halls and more commercial space for restaurants.
Social activist Peng Yang-kai (彭揚凱) said that open discussions and the ability to accommodate diverse opinions are the core values of transitional justice, and by encouraging members of the public to become involved in the debate on the reinvention of the hall it would teach people how to carry out a pluralistic dialogue, which is often disregarded in the decisionmaking process.