Renaming the hall could unify us

By Paul Lin 林保華

Thursday, Jul 02, 2009, Page 8

When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, he said citizen’s forums would be held to discuss whether National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (國立台灣民主紀念館) would have its name changed back to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂).

Now, after just a few closed-door meetings, it has been decided that the name will be changed back.

Pan-green supporters used to call the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall the “Chiang Temple,” as it was a product of the personality cult surrounding dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).

Taiwan is now a democratic nation and it is not right to worship the man mainly responsible for the 228 Incident. This is why, during the Democratic Progressive Party administration’s rule, the name of the hall was changed to the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall and the four-character inscription on the main gate, dazhong zhizheng (大中至正), or “great neutrality and perfect uprightness,” was changed to “Liberty Square” (自由廣場).

However, it now seems that Ma does not hold democracy and freedom close to his heart and is therefore changing the name back to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Taiwan faces several urgent problems, including economic woes, issues about democracy and the loss of sovereignty. Ma, however, views “democracy” and “freedom” as issues that are getting in his way and has said that he wants to clear up the issue of what to call the memorial hall before the end of the month.

Of course, Ma is doing this to please his rich and powerful Mainlander Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) cronies, as without Chiang, they would never have gained the special rights and privileges they now enjoy.

To ensure unity within the nation, it would be best if all sides involved took a step back and made a compromise on a neutral name.

This is why, in a speech I gave recently at the inaugural meeting of an anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) youth group, I suggested that the hall be called something like the “anti-CCP memorial hall.”

My reasons are as follows:

First, the status of Chiang is very controversial in Taiwan. However, I am sure that everyone in the pan-blue and pan-green camps will agree that Chiang was anti-CCP. Therefore, I believe this can be used as a consensus and that naming the hall something along the lines of an anti-CCP memorial hall could go a long way to bringing the pan-blue and pan-green camps closer together.

Second, Taiwan was once used by the KMT as a base to restore its rule over China and there are many historical relics that can be put on display to commemorate the past. Such a place would be the world’s most important anti-CCP venue and would also attract tourists from China, as they would also be interested in understanding the historical facts that the CCP has covered up and kept from them.

The CCP would of course have the most to say about an anti-CCP memorial hall being established in Taiwan.

However, there are many anti-Chiang and anti-Chinese Nationalist Party memorial sites in China, such as the Zhazi Cave (渣滓洞) and the Bai Residence (白公館) in Chongqing, where exhibitions show how the KMT persecuted members of the CCP.

So why can’t we have similar exhibits here in Taiwan?

Apart from showing the struggle that took place between the KMT and the CCP, an anti-CCP memorial hall could also show how the CCP hurt and persecuted the Chinese people, for example during the anti-rightist campaign, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. When the CCP gained rule over China, approximately 80 million Chinese died unnatural deaths and the CCP still hasn’t apologized to its people for this, but has instead worked hard to cover up the truth.

Setting up an anti-CCP memorial hall would be the biggest contribution we could make to promote political reform in China and improve the lives of its people, as well as to promote the universal values of democracy and human rights.

Naming the hall along anti-CCP lines would also be a test for Ma. Using such a name would remind KMT members how they were forced to follow Chiang to Taiwan and how their family members who stayed behind in China suffered so greatly when the CCP settled its scores. Even during the Cultural Revolution, former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) stated that those left behind by members of the KMT represented a continuation of the struggle between the KMT and the CCP.

However, when senior members of the KMT have “returned” to their “motherland” for visits recently, they did not say anything about these people, as if nothing had never happened.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall should have its name changed to the anti-CCP memorial hall and it would be best that Liberty Square kept its current name. If Ma really cannot handle the idea of having a memorial dedicated to freedom, why not base it on the ideal of “success in defeating the CCP” (反共必勝), which was one of Chiang’s primary aims.

I am sure that Ma would not want to go against instructions left behind by Chiang just to please the CCP.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

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