Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to face ‘transitional justice’

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of Culture announced Saturday a raft of measures to exact “transitional justice” on Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) held a press conference to announce that souvenirs depicting the late President Chiang Kai-shek had been removed from shops inside the memorial hall. The practice of playing a song in honor of Chiang at the opening and closing of the memorial hall had also been brought to an end, she said. She announced that galleries had also been renamed to erase references to the former president, whose legacy has become increasingly disputed. The announcement came as Taiwan prepared to mark the 70th anniversary of the 228 Incident, a massacre of protesters marking the beginning of the “White Terror” period under Chiang. “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,” said Cheng, who added that more measures were ahead for toning down the hall’s links to Chiang. Gradual Shift to ‘neutral’ State The government will launch a bill in six months’ time seeking to rename and redefine the use of the hall, Cheng said. Before the law is revised, the hall will be shifted into a “neutral state,” Cheng said, with the gallery, the exhibition rooms and performing hall giving priority to artistic and literary activities. The items on display that do not belong to the memorial hall will be returned to Academia Historica (國史館) and other agencies, she said The ministry has invited scholars and experts to form a panel to guide the transition of the hall, she said. ‘What people expect’ Cheng said that the people of Taiwan eagerly expected transitional justice to allow them to know the truth behind the 228 Incident and the people responsible for it.

Changes to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall are necessary, in line with a campaign to achieve transitional justice, the minister said.

Former Presidential Secretary General Yeh Chu-lan — whose husband Cheng Nan-jung died in a self-immolation in 1989 in protest of a government crackdown on the freedom of speech — said last week that transitional justice could not be achieved without identifying the “murderers” of the 228 Incident. The memorial hall, which is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Taipei, was built after Chiang’s death in 1975.

It opened to the public in 1980 and occupies a 250,000-square-meter area in Taipei’s affluent Zhongzheng District. In 2007, then-President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party renamed it “National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall,” but his successor Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang reinstated the name, which is still in use.