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Groups Protest as Chiang Kai-shek's Name Removed from Memorial Hall Gate in Taiwan

  • Andrew Ryan

Former President Chiang Kai-shek's name has been removed from the main gate of the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, which was built as a memorial to Mr. Chiang. It is the latest of a series of erasures by Taiwan's government of the man they say was a dictator. The Taipei City Government, which is run by Mr. Chiang's Kuomintang, objects to the re-naming campaign. Andrew Ryan reports from Taipei.

The name of Taiwan's former president Chiang Kai-shek was replaced Saturday with the words "Liberty Square." The five foot-high metal characters of Mr. Chiang's name were taken off the main gate of the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in Taipei amid protests on Friday.

Riot police were needed to block protests for and against the name removal, following violence on Thursday. A pickup truck had driven into a crowd of people, wounding five - including a TV cameraman who was seriously injured after he ended up underneath the vehicle.

President Chen Shui-bian's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party or DPP has been erasing the presence of Mr. Chiang at various sites around Taiwan.

Mr. Chiang's party, the opposition Kuomintang or KMT, says the removal of their former leader's presence is a campaign ploy by the DPP to win votes in next year's elections.

The Taipei City Government, which is run by the KMT, has challenged the central government's authority in removing Mr. Chiang's name from the gate. On Friday, it sent an official, Yeh Ching-yuan, to try to halt the name change.

Yeh said the city government would file a complaint with district prosecutors, who would then deal with the workers, the riot police, and the education minister - whose department is responsible for removing Mr. Chiang's name.

But the removal went ahead as planned. An education ministry official, Chuang Kuo-jung, suggested a referendum could help measure public opinion about the name removal.

Chuang said he supported a referendum, but that it was not up to him to decide. He called on the president and the cabinet to assess public opinion and to work with the main political parties on the matter.

Chiang Kai-shek is controversial figure here in Taiwan. He arrived on the island in 1949 after his Nationalist forces lost to the communists in a civil war in China.

Mr. Chiang went on to rule Taiwan under martial law until his death in 1975. He has become an iconic figure, and a symbol of future unification between Taiwan and the mainland.

That is partly why the pro-independence government wants to erase his name.

Officials have already removed Mr. Chiang's statue from military facilities around the island, canceled holidays in his name and re-named the main international airport.