The National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) earlier this week voted to remove a bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) from its campus and to relocate the structure to an indoor location.
The move came after protests led by students earlier this year.
At a school affairs meeting on Wednesday, more than half of those present voted to relocate the statue — currently located nearby Cheng Kung Lake (成功湖) on the campus — to the university’s archive. The relocation is slated to take place early next year.
An official from the university was quoted as saying that “the statue is part of history. There is no need to destroy it, otherwise these pieces of history won’t be found in the future.”
On Feb. 28 this year, a group of NCKU students marked the 65th anniversary of the 228 Incident by staging an art installation on campus to symbolize the horrific and brutal moment in Taiwanese history in the hope of raising public awareness about the nation’s past mistakes.
Members of the student organization 02 Group (零貳社) — whose name is a phonetic translation of “protest” in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) — hung a placard reading “1947-2012” on the statue and placed the names of victims of the 228 Massacre around the statue.
The 228 Incident refers to a massacre that sparked a massive 1947 nationwide uprising against the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime. The uprising was brutally crushed in a violent crackdown spearheaded by the state. That tragic event also marked the beginning of the White Terror era that saw thousands of people arrested, imprisoned and executed.
The students’ art installation this February stirred heated debate at the university about whether the statue should be removed.
Chen Yi-chen (陳以箴), head of the 02 Group, said the school’s decision to move the statue is a major breakthrough.
“This is just the beginning. We should dismantle all the symbols of authoritarian rule which still exist on campus,” she said.
She added that the university is treating the decision as a simple act of relocating a statue and is unwilling to consider the wider issues of authoritarianism on campus.
“Our university is quite conservative. In classrooms, administration facilities, in the interactions between faculty and students there are still leftovers of a past authoritarian mentality. Such a mentality needs be removed,” she said.