Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Let Kaohsiung lead the way

In Kaohsiung they've begun changing the sign of the Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center; it will be replaced with a sign reading "Kaohsiung Cultural Center." I hadn't even heard much about this decision until there were television reports of "blue" minded folks out there tonight, protesting the removal of "Chiang Kai-shek" from the sign.

What a contrast compared to all the brouhaha surrounding the debate over changing the name of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to the "Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" and the proposed demolition of its surrounding walls. On March 2, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced that the walls of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall would be demolished. Soon after, there was a news leak that the Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) had presided over a closed Cabinet meeting (also held on March 2) to rename the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall the "Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall." Though the Cabinet had approved the name change and demolition of the walls, the Taipei City Government has now stepped in, using its authority as the memorial's managing body to invoke articles 12 and 17 of the Cultural Resources Preservation Act (文化資產保存法). This legislation allows the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs to declare the hall a temporary historical monument, allowing the debate to drag out for at least another year.

According to the Cultural Resources Preservation Act, a building must be at least 50 years old to be declared a historical monument. The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is about 27 years old; it is the newest building on record to be evaluated for its cultural and historical significance.

Well if it were up to me, personally I'd prefer a mass removal of all and any relics related to the Chiang regime, no holds barred. But if they must remain I'm not necessarily in favor of simply changing the name, or beautifying the building. If the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is to remain for instance, how about posting some facts to enlighten the public on how Chiang Kai-shek governed the island and "safeguarded" the interests of its residents: by imposing martial law on Taiwan in 1949, ordering systematic elimination (murders) of intellectuals in the events associated with the 2-28 massacre, implementing policies to reeducate the people of Taiwan, and the list goes on... A sound understanding of historical events and context seems to be in order here.

To me, the renaming of buildings like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall seems like an exacerbation of the already pathological view that the Taiwanese have of their national identity.


  • At 3/20/2007 8:18 PM, Blogger Michael Turton said…

    Nothing pathological, Feli. It's normal for emerging democracies to rename the monuments to colonialism and/or authoritarianism left in their domain, and remove statues and other objects. Part of the reclamation of the past. I think we should support renaming the place. Or better yet, paving the whole thing over, and just calling it National Arts Plaza.

    Great letter the other day in the TT.


  • At 3/30/2007 11:23 AM, Anonymous Jerome said…

    Go Kaohsiung Go!


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