By Daniel J. Bauer

The recent toppling and desecration of a 3-meters-tall statue of Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, may have occurred deep in the south, far from bustling, sophisticated Taipei, and in a relatively tiny, tucked-away niche of the country at that, but the crudity and symbolism of the act were enough to provoke concern for thoughtful citizens everywhere. The statue was pulled face down to the ground and defaced with red paint in Tang Te-chang Memorial Park in Greater Tainan on Feb. 22. The locus of the event is important. Tang Te-chang died at age 40 at the hands of soldiers under the command of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during the Feb. 28, 1947 Incident.

Pro-independence activists were behind the attack on the bronze likeness. Police arrested Tsay Ting-kuei, a leader of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, later released him, and then pushed paperwork up the ladder for prosecution. Predictably, the KMT condemned the vandalism. The party’s Culture and Committee head Fan Chiang Tai-chi pinned at least partial responsibility on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP was in charge of city government administration in Greater Tainan, he said, and should have fulfilled its duties “to maintain a historic monument and protect cultural assets” (TT 2-24-14 p. 3).

Media coverage a day after Fan Chiang’s remarks included a photograph with the touch of the bizarre that was, for me at least, disturbing if not actually scary. I studied that picture and shook my head. Only in Taiwan, I thought, can you find oddball politics like this. The photo showed an acknowledged former leader of the Bamboo Union, a noted Taiwan crime syndicate, speaking before what appeared to be a well-organized crowd. He looked like Taiwan’s answer to Robert De Niro in the classic tragic-comedy “GoodFellas.”