Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday expressed opposition to tearing down the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, saying that the monument should be transformed and put to better use to avoid wasting taxpayers’ money.
As tomorrow is the 72nd anniversary of the 228 Incident, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) raised the issue at a question-and-answer session with Su at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
The memorial hall serves a variety of functions: It has been the venue for social movements — such as the Wild Lily Student Movement and the Housing Movement — as well as for cultural performances, she said.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
However, the site has a history of institutional violence, having served as a Qing Dynasty military camp and a Japanese colonial era army base, as well as the army and military police headquarters of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) after World War II, she added.
The disposition or repurposing of authoritarian symbols is necessary to deepen democracy and the education of society, Yu said, asking Su to swiftly propose a plan for the memorial hall.
Su said that he was born in 1947, the year of the Incident.
As the premier who approved a program to determine accountability for the Incident and founded the 228 Memorial Museum on the order of then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), he has heard the woes of more families of 228 Incident victims than anyone else, he said.
However, Su said that he is against demolishing the building, as it was paid for with taxpayers’ money and built by the nation with the “sweat and blood” of the people.
The former army headquarters could not have been vacated so quickly if the KMT had not drawn on the nation’s resources, he said.
“Only by properly using the venue can the endeavors to date be justified,” he added.
Su cited the example of former South African president Nelson Mandela, who was jailed for 27 years under apartheid rule, but while in office rushed to his party’s headquarters to stop a resolution to dissolve the nation’s rugby teams due to the sport’s popularity among Caucasians, because he did not believe that oppressing former oppressors was the right thing to do.
By rejecting his party’s plan, Mandela united South Africa and moved it forward, Su said.
The issue of the memorial hall’s future should be approached with an unprecedented loftiness and a new perspective, as transitional justice must not be allowed to degrade into a witch hunt, he said.
Perpetrators and victims alike all live on the same land and face the ambitions of an enemy nation to annex Taiwan, which is the most pressing matter, he added.
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