Memorial hall in Taipei to stop selling Chiang tokens

Mr Pan with photos of his late parents. His father was killed during the White Terror, a period of suppression during which the KMT government tortured and shot dead as many as 30,000 people. The Zhong Zheng Auditorium, Jie Shi Exhibition Hall and ot
The Zhong Zheng Auditorium, Jie Shi Exhibition Hall and others named after Chiang and his family at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall will be renamed for neutrality, Taiwan has said.PHOTO: THE CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Mr Pan with photos of his late parents. His father was killed during the White Terror, a period of suppression during which the KMT government tortured and shot dead as many as 30,000 people. The Zhong Zheng Auditorium, Jie Shi Exhibition Hall and ot
Mr Pan with photos of his late parents. His father was killed during the White Terror, a period of suppression during which the KMT government tortured and shot dead as many as 30,000 people.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Taiwan deals with trauma left by rule of former nationalist leader

TAIPEI • A memorial hall in Taiwan named after Chiang Kai-shek has stopped selling souvenirs depicting the former nationalist leader, the authorities said, as the island deals with the "deep scar" left by his rule.

The decision last Saturday came as Taiwan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of a brutal 1947 massacre of protesters by troops from Chiang's Kuomintang (KMT) party, when the now democratic island was still under martial law.

The protest began after an inspector beat a local female trader in Taipei for selling untaxed cigarettes. The subsequent massacre was followed by decades of political purges under Chiang and his son. During the period of suppression of political dissidents, known as the "White Terror", the KMT government tortured and shot dead as many as 30,000 people.

The anti-government uprising is known as the Feb 28 Incident.

The killings are a source of lingering anger against the KMT that traces its roots to mainland China. Chiang led the KMT to Taiwan to set up a separate government after losing a civil war to the communists.

Taiwan's Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun said: "Many of the victims and their families suffered long- term discrimination and pain. It is a deep scar hidden in the hearts of all Taiwanese."

The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei will also stop playing a song dedicated to Chiang at its opening and closing, a statement from the Culture Ministry added.

References to the former ruler would be removed from the names of galleries, but a 6.3m-tall bronze statue of a seated Chiang - the hall's centrepiece - would remain, the ministry said. The government will launch a Bill in six months' time seeking to rename and redefine the use of the hall, said Ms Cheng.

Before the law is revised, the hall will be shifted into a "neutral state", she added, with the gallery, the exhibition rooms and performing hall giving priority to artistic and literary activities.

The ministry has invited scholars and experts to form a panel to guide the transition of the hall, she said.

Relatives of White Terror victims have said that memorials named after Chiang should be changed and his statues removed.

For Mr Pan Hsin-hsing, the sight and smell of lilies held a particular horror for many years - the pungent flowers decorated the room where his executed father lay before the funeral. Mr Pan was just six years old when his father Pan Mu-chih, a doctor and local politician, was arrested, tortured and killed in the massacre.

A last note from his father, scribbled on a cigarette pack given to him by a sympathetic jailer, was smuggled out to the family. "Don't be sad, I die for the residents of our city. I die with no regret," it reads.

Tomorrow, Mr Pan will speak at a national commemoration for the victims of the crackdown.

Mr Pan's father was a critic of the KMT and was killed by a firing squad alongside other local politicians in southern Chiayi city. Mr Pan also lost his 15-year-old brother, who was shot after going out to look for their missing father.

The memorial hall, which was built after Chiang's death in 1975, is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the Taiwanese capital. It opened to the public in 1980, and sits on a 250,000 sq m plot in the affluent Zhongzheng District.

In 2007, the hall was renamed "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" by former president Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, which has its roots in a movement opposing KMT's one-party rule. But his successor Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT reinstated the site's current name.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Memorial hall in Taipei to stop selling Chiang tokens'. Print Edition | Subscribe