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Shieh defends elimination of Chiang holidays

Opposition parties claim move is ploy to please voters ahead of 2008 elections

Shieh defends elimination of Chiang holidays

Cabinet spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) yesterday stressed that the government will keep pushing for campaigns to eliminate symbols of former President Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) legacy.
The spokesman made the remark following the Interior Ministry's decision to scrap Chiang's birthday and the anniversary of his death as national holidays. "The legacies of the so-called 'saviors' were created when military, police and educational resources were dominated by authoritarian leaders. Now that Taiwan is a democratic country, the government should actively remove the phantoms of these legacies," the abolition of the birthday and anniversary of Chiang's death should have come earlier, he added.
Shieh noted that despite the fact that martial law was lifted many years ago, many people still live with the mentality of the martial law period. Removing the two national holidays is just like removing statues of authoritative leaders from campuses, military facilities and public parks so that justice can be seen, he said.
Shieh added that besides getting rid of Chiang's legacy, the government is also committed to expunging more of the Kuomintang's legacy in the future.
Interior Minister Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) also defended the government's move. "Former President Chiang's merits and faults are being disputed (in the wake of) his authoritarian rule of Taiwan and it is inappropriate to set a national memorial day to honor him," he said.
According to Lee, no other democratic country in the world has a day designated to commemorate an individual unless he or she is the nation's founder or has made a major contribution to that country.
Noting that "half of the people in Taiwan disapprove of Chiang," Lee added that the government should not continue coercing the public into honoring Chiang, especially in light of his role in the 228 Incident of 1947 in which thousands of people were massacred by KMT troops while rebelling against KMT rule in Taiwan.
Asked whether the Ministry of the Interior has any plans to scrap the commemoration days marking the birth and passing of the Republic of China's founding father Sun Yat-sen, Lee said the government has no intention of doing so, as those commemoration days are not controversial.
Although the introduction of a five-day work week in 2001 rendered the dates holidays in name only, the move has sparked controversy. The cancellation of the two commemorative days honoring Chiang drew heavy criticism from opposition parties, with some calling the move a political ploy to woo voters, and some saying it is a manipulation of political ideology.
"We condemn the ruling Democratic Progressive Party for fanning ideological confrontation in Taiwan," said Su Jun-pin, a spokesman for the KMT.
"The DPP is trying to turn the issue into a political asset for the legislative and presidential elections next year," he said, calling the decision a "campaign ploy" to please pro-independence voters.
The Ministry of the Interior Wednesday removed Chiang's birthday on October 31 and the anniversary of his death on April 5 from Taiwan's list of memorial days, saying that the decision was made as part of an effort to promote transitional justice and as a response to the families of victims of the 228 Incident.
Chiang's grandson, KMT lawmaker John Chiang (蔣孝嚴), vowed to contest the move when parliament reconvenes in September.
"We strongly protest the DPP's move ... it is twisting history and it will be despised by the people," he said, adding that the ruling party should put more effort into people's livelihood and economic problems, rather than manipulating people's ideologies.
DPP caucus whip Wang Tuoh (王拓), on the other hand, expressed support for the move. "The two holidays are residues of authoritarian rule. As Taiwan is a democratic country now, idolization of one individual should no longer be encouraged," Wang said.

Updated : 2022-01-27 17:10 GMT+08:00