His detractors call him a killer, but late Taiwan president Chiang Kai-shek was a savior who helped keep the island out of Communist China’s hands, his sole surviving grandson insists. Nationalist Party legislator John Chiang said his grandfather, who ruled all of China until he lost a civil war to Mao Zedong’s forces and fled to Taiwan in 1949, prevented a communist takeover of the island, where U.S. troops were stationed until the 1970s.
The lawmaker defended his grandfather, who headed the Nationalist Party or Kuomintang, amid a major campaign by current President Chen Shui-bian to erase or play down the role of Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, including the recent removal of his name and likeness from many government institutions.
Some leaders of Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Nationalists’ chief rival, were jailed during the iron-fisted rule of Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo.
“He was a great man,” John Chiang, an illegitimate son of Chiang Ching-kuo, said in an interview in Taipei. “He safeguarded the sovereignty of the Republic of China.
“I’m not saying that the late President Chiang Kai-shek was a perfect person, but I think he did a lot for Taiwan and the people of Taiwan … there’s no reason to remove his statues from public places — I’m against it,” he said.
To mark the 60th anniversary of a 1947 uprising the suppression of which saw thousands of Taiwanese killed by Kuomintang (KMT) troops from China, President Chen also called Chiang Kai-shek a “killer” and the incident a “slaughter.” Monuments and statues of the smiling, mustachioed general were erected across Taiwan, which the KMT ruled until they lost the 2000 presidential elections.
Many in Taiwan revered Chiang Kai-shek, who died in 1975. Today DPP supporters revile him.
John Chiang, who has filed a lawsuit against the DPP chairman over the statue removals and is organizing a street demonstration for March 31, also defended Chiang Kai-shek’s response to the 1947 uprising.
“Taiwan was almost falling into the hands of mobs, so he had to stabilize the government,” Chiang said. “It’s a huge exaggeration to say that so many people got killed that year.”
He estimates 1,000 deaths, compared with news reports and academic research figures that put the toll as high as 30,000.