Authoritarian aspects of Taipei's CKS Memorial Hall should be eliminated, says TJC

Military presence within the grounds and the guard-changing ceremony may be done away with

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CKS Memorial Hall (欣盈 ∕ Flickr)

CKS Memorial Hall (欣盈 ∕ Flickr)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Executive Yuan’s Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) has declared that the authoritarian characteristics of Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Memorial Hall ought to be eliminated.

The commission made the announcement during a press conference for the release of its biannual progress report today (Dec. 17). It also advised signs and symbols within the grounds of the commemorative park that exude an authoritarian nature be removed, and that military presence should also be withdrawn.

Chairman of the TJC Yang Tsui (楊翠) said a total of 16 meetings had taken place regarding the revision and transformation of CKS Memorial Hall, including two expert meetings, four focus discussions, three briefings on human rights and transitional justice, and five workshops provided by the Ministry of Culture (MOC). Five follow-up recommendations were produced to guide the future vision of the site, according to Liberty Times.

Yang said the first recommendation was to “remove the authoritarian characteristics” that plague the site. Language used on signboards and commemorative plaques within the grounds currently harkens back to that used similarly in imperial palaces and royal tombs, he stressed, to construct particular historical viewpoints regarding the nationalist party and the state. Such language should be revised in order to help “return the park to the people”, he said the commission added.

The second suggestion was to allow the park to “commemorate Taiwan’s historical trajectory from authoritarianism through challenges to authoritarianism.” The current site of CKS Memorial Hall was a former military camp during martial law, Yang commented, but was also an important place for spontaneous political protest and a rallying site once society began to break free from authoritarian rule. The site must convey the trajectory of national violence and ensure the quest for democracy that happened over the past 100 years is not erased, he added.

The commission concluded thirdly that CKS Memorial Hall should be a site for the promotion of human rights, democracy, rule of law and civic education, Yang said.

Yang stated that the fourth recommendation is that mechanisms are put in place to ensure the above three recommendations are implemented effectively and in accordance with the principles outlined. Because transitional justice is concerned with preserving basic human rights, he commented, the commission recommends a supervisory body be established with the participation of third-party organizations and private individuals if necessary.

Finally, Yang said, the fifth recommendation is that during the transitional process, there should be response measures for transitional justice work. The commission concluded that CKS Memorial Hall is a place of leisure, and a top tourist attraction, that ought to facilitate social communication and the promotion of human rights. In accordance with the values of human rights and democracy, the site should no longer hold guard-changing ceremonies, and permanent exhibitions promoting human rights and democracy should be installed.

Yang commented that these five principles are recommendations only, and the MOC is yet to put forward a concrete plan of action. With regard to the withdrawal of the guard specifically, Yang said a third meeting on the matter is scheduled to be held. Additionally, the Transitional Justice Commission will hold talks with the Ministry of National Defense on the matter.

CKS Memorial Hall and how the nation’s history is to be commemorated has been a contentious issue over the past few years, with high tensions between authorities and youth activists. Multiple statues of former authoritarian powers in Taiwan were found beheaded in 2017, and during the summer, activists already facing charges for defacing Chiang Kai-shek monuments covered his statue and the memorial hall with red paint.