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Everywhere in Taiwan, the memory of the dictatorship

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar27,2024

Everywhere in Taiwan, the memory of the dictatorship

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The Chiang Kai-shek memorial, located in the heart of Taiwan, includes a gigantic statue of the dictator reminiscent in shape of that of Lincoln in Washington .

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Taiwan is now one of Asia's most vibrant democracies, but the small sovereign island of 24 million people continues to bear the scars of Chiang Kai-shek's brutal dictatorship.

All over the island there are statues and places venerating the dictator. Progress in transitional justice to repair the atrocities committed during the dictatorship is also too slow, according to some.

On a weekday afternoon, tourists take a group photo in front of a large marble monument in the heart of Taiwan. This is one of the busiest tourist spots in Taiwan, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Every day, thousands of tourists will see the gigantic statue of the dictator, similar to that of Abraham Lincoln in Washington.

Chiang Kai-shek was a murderer who committed violence and repression, says activist Chilly Chen, who was arrested last year while trying to vandalize the monument.

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One of the many statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek still visible in Taiwan.

Chilly Chen calls for its demolition as well as the removal of other statues and monuments celebrating the dictator.

It shouldn’t be there for everyone to walk around. When I go to the monument, I feel a feeling of oppression, says former political prisoner Fred Him-San Chin, victim of the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek. He also wants the statue removed, even if he prioritizes the duty of memory.

Fred Him-San Chin returns every week to an old Taipei prison, where he was persecuted and where he served a year and a half of his 12-year prison sentence for sedition. His life sentence, wrongly imposed on him, was based on a false confession.

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Fred Him-San Chin returns every week to a former Taipei prison where he was incarcerated, which has become a human rights museum.

The former Taipei Prison has been converted into a human rights museum to raise awareness of the atrocities committed under martial law imposed between 1947 and 1989 in Taiwan . It's what we call white terror.

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At least 4,000 Taiwanese were executed and nearly 140,000 others incarcerated during this period.

Fred Him-San Chin hopes his testimony will inspire the younger generation . I want them to be vigilant so that the hard-won democracy and freedom they enjoy today are not destroyed, he says.

As part of the transitional justice law aimed at righting the wrongs of the white terror period, a thousand statues honoring dictator Chiang Kai-shek and other controversial leaders will be removed from public places.

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About 200 statues can be found today in a park created in honor of the dictator Chiang Kai- chek (statue in the foreground) in Taoyuan, about a 45-minute drive south of Taipei.

About 200 of them are now in a park created in honor of the dictator in Taoyuan, about a 45-minute drive south of Taipei. The owners accept donations from cities and institutions that are getting rid of the marks of Taiwan's heavy past.

Chilly Chen considers it unacceptable that the removal of statues and street names honoring the dictatorial past are not progressing any faster. A lot of things are still there and it reminds people that the dictator is still there, he said.

In contrast, Chiang Kai-shek's defenders, including former Kuomintang elected official Wu Sz-Huai, believe that he remains the one who brought modernity and prosperity to Taiwan.

He had to do what he did. We owe him a lot, he explains.

At a time when its democracy is threatened by China, Taiwan is divided over its dictatorial past. For now, the government assures that the controversial memorial will remain in place.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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