National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall reopened to the public yesterday, with the 10m high statue of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) remaining in the lobby of the hall, which has been decorated with kites to reflect the theme of "a democratic wind."
Amid sporadic shouting outside the hall, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) delivered the opening speech inside the heavily guarded building yesterday morning, saying that the name change of the hall and new inscription on the main arch signified that authoritarianism had ended and that an era of freedom and democracy had begun.
"Freedom and democracy have become part of our life, like the air we breathe each day," he said. "They do not come easily, however. Our ancestors fought for them, sacrificing their personal safety and even their lives."
PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES
The renaming of the hall, which was carried out under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, met with strong opposition. The inscription on the gateway -- dazhong zhizheng (大中至正), referring to Chiang's "great neutrality and perfect uprightness" -- was subsequently replaced with "Liberty Square."
Chen said the name change and the two exhibitions that opened at the hall yesterday would remind people that democracy and liberty come at a price and that Taiwanese must cherish those hard-earned achievements.
Ahead of the opening yesterday, there had been speculation that the administration would dismantle the statue or cover it up. Chen said the government would do neither.
Chen said that since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2000, his administration had made every effort to remove relics of authoritarianism.
During his term as Taipei mayor, Chen said, he changed Chiehshou Road's (介壽路) name to Ketagalan Boulevard to demonstrate his goodwill toward Aborigines and renamed Taipei New Park to 228 Peace Park -- in commemoration of the government crackdown on the civilian uprising that became known as the "228 Incident."
During his presidency, Chen replaced a sign that had hung over the entrance to the Presidential Office since 1948 -- Chiehshou Hall (介壽館) -- with a new sign that simply read "Presidential Office."
Chen said the reopening of the hall symbolized the "opening of the door of democracy" and that it transformed "a temple" worshipping a dictator to a venue where all people can freely reflect and learn the true meaning of democracy and human rights.
"We believe history will speak for itself and people will learn from history," he said. "That is the true meaning of the reopening."
Ministry of Education Secretary-General Chuang Kuo-jung (莊國榮), who had floated the idea of covering up the statue, yesterday said that it was one of the many options the ministry had considered.
The main hall, where the statue stands, is decorated with kites and large posters featuring themes from the nation's democratic movement.
The kites represent achieving freedom, Chuang said, like a butterfly that emerges from its cocoon.
He said the decorations cost about NT$1 million (US$31,000), substantially less than the price of the statue -- NT$23 million -- and the building itself -- NT$1.2 billion.
Asked about Vice President Annette Lu's (
Tu asked reporters attending the opening ceremony to decide for themselves whether the changes to the hall were worthy of praise or not.
"The way various media outlets report on today's event will be an indication of the development of media freedom and neutrality in the 20 years since the lifting of martial law," he said.
At an election rally event on Saturday in Jhonghe (
Chueh Feng-shih (闕豐實), a 67-year-old Taipei resident invited by the organizers to attend the ceremony, said he felt sad when he saw the names of all the victims of the 228 Incident posted on the wall.
He did not think the statue of Chiang should be removed. The statue can serve as a reminder to the public of the atrocities that Chiang committed during his rule, Chueh said.
Another guest, who identified herself only as Mrs Chen, agreed, saying that it was only right to educate the public both about the dictator's crimes and his contributions.
Her husband, Mr Su, however, said the statue should be melted, made into a missile and used against China.
Additional reporting by Jenny W. Hsu
MAKING A MOVE: Starting on Monday, short-term business travelers can apply for shorter quarantine periods, while transits of up to eight hours would be allowed The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced an easing of restrictions that would from Monday next week allow foreigners to visit or make a transit flight in Taiwan. A policy allowing short-term business travelers from countries with low or medium risks of COVID-19 infections to apply for shorter quarantine periods is also to resume that day. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that while the autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program is to be extended after the end of this month, special conditions for foreign nationals to enter Taiwan would be restored from Monday. Foreign nationals
CONTINUED VIGILANCE: People would still be required to wear masks at eight types of public spaces and border controls would continue, Chen Shih-chung told reporters The government’s autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program is to continue beyond Sunday, but eating and drinking on high-speed trains would be allowed from Monday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that while there were no new confirmed cases in Taiwan yesterday, the global COVID-19 situation remains serious, so the autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program would be extended beyond its Sunday deadline. “Border control measures, including requiring a negative polymerase chain reaction test result obtained within three days of boarding a plane to Taiwan, and undergoing quarantine in a
‘UNFRIENDLY’: COA Minister Chen Chi-chung said that Beijing probably imposed the sanction because the pineapple production season is about to start in Taiwan More than 99 percent of pineapples sold to China passed inspections, the government said yesterday, after China earlier in the day abruptly suspended imports of pineapples from the nation, which Taipei called an “unfriendly” move. From Monday, China is to stop importing pineapples from Taiwan, the Chinese General Administration of Customs said. The regulation is a normal measure for ensuring biosafety, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said in a news release later yesterday. Since last year, Chinese customs officials have repeatedly seized pineapples imported from Taiwan that carried “perilous organisms,” Ma said. Were the organisms to spread in China, they would
MORE RISK? Three Taiwanese family members were found to have the Brazilian variant, which CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo said might be more infectious From Wednesday, all travelers who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days are required to be quarantined at a centralized facility after arriving in Taiwan and undergo a COVID-19 test upon ending quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that starting from 12am on Wednesday, all travelers arriving from Brazil, including those who have transited through the country in the past 14 days, would have to stay at a centralized quarantine facility. “They will be tested for COVID-19 upon completing the 14-day quarantine, and they