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South Taiwan schools remove symbols of authoritarian past

References to Chiang Kai-shek scrubbed from campuses in Tainan

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Dust and weathering shows where the characters 中正堂 (Zhongzheng Hall) once hung, after they were removed from a hall at Tainan's Baihe Elementary S...

Dust and weathering shows where the characters 中正堂 (Zhongzheng Hall) once hung, after they were removed from a hall at Tainan's Baihe Elementary S...

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — To discourage idolization of Taiwan’s past authoritarian leader and government, Tainan’s schools will no longer feature buildings named after, or in honor of, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).

According to a statement from the Tainan City Government released on Sunday (26. Feb), the district's schools will no longer feature buildings named “Zhong Zheng” (中正), an alternate name for Chiang Kai-shek, and “Jie Shou” (介壽), a term used to praise Chiang, and other names that reference authoritarian figures from Taiwan’s past. The Tainan Bureau of Education said these symbols have no place in schools, as they contradict the cultivation of students’ freedom, sense of democracy, and independent thinking.

Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said that the city had recently completed an inventory of public places and features that displayed authoritarian symbols, and that steps were being taken to gradually replace them. The city government has also published information about the history of various sites named after Chiang, and highlighted areas throughout Tainan where human rights abuses took place.

According to a 2017 report, there were 37 localities, 52 schools, and 335 roads throughout Taiwan with names that reference Chiang Kai-shek. This is not counting the ubiquitous Zhong-zheng or Jie-shou pavilions, halls, libraries, and other public places and institutions throughout Taiwan.

The decision to remove the authoritarian references from schools came shortly before the annual 228 Memorial Day. The memorial day commemorates the up to 28,000 Taiwanese who died at the hands of the Kuomintang in the 228 Massacre, and the subsequent 38-year period (The White Terror) of human rights abuses, arbitrary detentions, and executions of political dissidents under martial law in Taiwan that followed.