Wednesday, January 9, 2013

蔣介石さよなら/Goodbye, Chiang Kai-shek


I saw the scene in the photos below on my way to classes this morning.  There's a statue of Chiang Kai-shek next to the pond near the Mandarin Center.  Or, I should say, there WAS a statue of Chiang Kai-shek.
Taiwan used to have statues of the guy in pretty much all of its parks and schools, but with the advent of democracy and government by law, criticism of the government, past and present, became possible.  As a result, a lot of schools and other institutions decided to get rid of their hero-worship, Chiang Kai-shek statues.  From the time when I first came here I thought it was odd that there was a statue of the guy in Cheng Kung's campus.  Cheng Kung is in Tainan, and the southern part of Taiwan has always had more animosity towards Chiang Kai-shek than the north.
So why is this statue-removal important?  Chiang Kai-shek is more than just a past president.  He's a symbol.  He fought against the Japanese in WWII, and then against Mao and the Communists after the war.  Of course, he lost the civil war against the communists, but he's still seen as a hero by Chinese Nationalists.  On the other hand, because he took over Taiwan, instituted martial law, and because of the various violations of human rights that he brought to the island, he's also viewed as a villain by many Taiwanese people, particularly those who think of themselves as "Taiwanese" rather than "Chinese residing in Taiwan".  Basically, he's a really polarizing figure.
As for that identity, there have been surveys done on this subject, and the trend over the past couple decades has been a rapid increase in people reporting that they self-identify as "Taiwanese" and a rapid decrease in people reporting as "Chinese".  (There are also people who answer these surveys with the answer that they are both "Taiwanese and Chinese".)
I found myself thinking just one thing was unfortunate as I watched the statue being taken down.  If they had just waited another month and a half, they could have taken it down on 2/28.

I'm not sure what the red hood is for, but it made me think of Little Red Riding Hood.  It's probably just to protect the statue from damage.

As evidence that this was more than a normal statue removal, look at all the people gathered here taking photos.  This removal was unannounced too, so these people are all just people like me who happened to come along.  (Or as I heard it, the removal was announced to be happening on a different day later on and was secretly pushed forward.  Also, right now we're right in the middle of finals time, so the students are all busier than normal.)
Bye bye!

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