Taiwan's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall removes souvenirs of former leader

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwanese memorial hall named after Chiang Kai-shek has stopped selling souvenirs depicting the former nationalist leader, authorities said Saturday (Feb 25), as the island deals with the "deep scar" left by his rule.

The decision comes as Taiwan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of a brutal massacre of protesters by troops from his Kuomintang (KMT) party, when the now democratic island was still under martial law.

The massacre was followed by decades of political purges under Chiang and his son, known as the "White Terror".

"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," Culture Minister Cheng Li-chun said of the announcement.

The Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall, which was built after the leader's death in 1975 and is one of Taipei's most recognisable landmarks, will 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 6.3-metre-tall bronze statue of a seated Chiang - the hall's centrepiece - would remain, the ministry said.

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

The former ruler led the KMT to Taiwan to establish a separate government after losing a civil war in 1949 to the Communists.

The hall was renamed "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" in 2007 by former president Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), 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.