Monday, May 21, 2007

The name changes at the Old Dead Dictator Hall are now under way. The new name is "Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" as if democracy were already dead here and now needed to be memorialized. Kinda ominous.....

The name changes have sparked a furious reaction from the KMT, whose political identity the mass murderer Chiang Kai-shek is central to. Every time the DPP makes a move like this, the KMT reacts with fury, tying itself ever more tightly to the image of a dead dictator whom hardly anyone on the island who is not a mainlander regards with respect. Even The Future Savior of All We Love(tm) Ma Ying-jeou himself jumped in, as Taiwan News reports:

On Saturday President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) presided over the grand ceremony to announce the name change of the landmark located in downtown Taipei, named after the late president Chiang Kai-shek, to a memorial hall commemorating the achievement of Taiwan's democratic movement. Two gigantic drapes with paintings of Taiwan water lilies and the name "National Taiwan Democratic Memorial Hall" were seen hanging from the sides of the main building, which enshrines Chiang Kai-shek in the form of a large statue.

Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the presidential candidate of the main opposition party Kuomintang, said the central government should have had a second thought before launching such a movement. Ma accused the government for not only taking the lead role in violating the law but also stirring confrontations between the people.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said, "We (the Taipei City government) will immediately demand that they (the central government) remove the drapes. If they don't do this we will be forced to take action." He said that the city government will proceed to pull down the drapes at any time after a document requiring the removal of the drapes is sent out.

Taipei's chief of cultural affairs Lee Yung-ping said the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall has not achieved its legality through legislative approval and thus is nonexistent, and the two drapes covering the left and right sides of the building, if not removed, would be handled according to the Act for the Preservation of Cultural Properties, which would impose a fine of between NT$100,000 to 500,000 for such a violation and for each further breach. Lee said the department had issued a fine of NT$10,000 and demanded the drapes be taken down right away.

The Taipei City Government did not give permission last year to the application of the organizers of a massive anti-Chen Shui-bian protest to cover the Jingfu Gate, a historical city gate near the memorial hall, with drapes, Lee said. That showed the City Government's administrative consistency in dealing with the use of cultural sites, Lee said, adding that the city government was forced to intervene into the controversy of the issue about the name change of the memorial hall.

The KMT legislative caucus plans to file a complaint against Education Minster Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) for misusing his administrative power to stage the name change. KMT's policy chief Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) criticized the creation of the name "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" as an illegal creation because the Provisions Governing the Organization of the CKS Memorial Hall Administration Office, which is a law, has not been abolished.

In addition to the ongoing struggle between the two competing nationalisms, one Taiwanese, the other Chinese, the issue also shines a light on another problem: the ambiguous lines of authority in the government here. There is a general complaint that democracy has made everything messier, and it is quite true: democracy has forced the government to figure out what the rules are, and in most cases they are vastly unclear, with multiple and conflicting lines of authority. Foreigners constantly complain that different government agencies tell them different stories about what is needed to accomplish this or that, but actually that is the experience of everyone on the island, at almost every level. In the past Taiwan was governed by men, not laws, and so to get something done, you had to find out who was in charge of that thing. But now, no matter what the issue is, lines of authority are extremely unclear.

In this case the Taipei city government -- which is a municipal government and thus, under the bizarre system here, the equivalent of a province -- is pitting itself against the central government. The level of the clash is easily misread. This is not a case of, say, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania defying the Federal government. This is more like George Wallace's attempt to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama -- a state vs. Federal clash. The Taipei city government has considerable clout, and it is backed by a legislature controlled by the pro-China parties.

Should be lots of fun here over the next few weeks. Caroline Gluck of the BBC provides an international news account.

These lovely photos were passed along to me from Jerome Keating. My thanks to whoever took them.


channing said...

Time check out the latest updates on the ongoing battle and the removal of the banners...

ESWN has an update on the Taipei City's newest offensive/defensive strike.

Taiwan Echo said...

Michael, the new name should have been :

National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall

It's a big big big difference with/without the word National. I just started a thread of discussion over the anti-media forum (in mandarin though):

(The rediculous "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall")

I'll try to write one in English. In short, "Memorial" implies that the democracy in Taiwan is dead, and "National Taiwan" implies that Taiwan is a local area but not a country.

channing said...

Time "to" check out, I meant.

On an additional note, I find it interesting how the banners display "National Taiwan......" which resembles NTU in referring to ROC as the nation. It sounds like some KMT influence, or the DPP is trying to add a tone of neutrality.

Taiwan Echo said...

btw, man, this post is "Untitled" ...

Bob said...

Screw You Michael!- Is this really an important issue for the Taiwanese? C'mon are you guys promoting this name change really so interested in this? If you are so friggen interested, why in the hell did you and every other person in these pro-dpp NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO blogs not say a friggen thing about it until an election year popped up? Because your an idiot DPP puppet. Michael Turton in fact is a the world's renowned carrier of the largest piece of brown nosing crust hanging from their nose! Facts are Facts and I challenge you to give me ONE just ONE instance where in the United States a memorial, natiional park, mountain, school, anything of public use was re-named WITHOUT referenda? My blog has a parody on the CKS Memorial

However my personal feelings are I dont give a shit! I have lived in Taipei permanently since 1986, thats 21 years and I swear to you I have never been inside! Have no desire to go look because I dont care. But I do know that some people do care, and I do know the Taipei of 1986 I came to was AWESOME! No ethic hatred, Benz's and BMW's everywhere, unemployment at less than 1% and efficient government. AND MILLIONS OF TAIWANESE also remember the Chiang era and their feelings about the Chiangs if they are patriotic, if they are near worship, however they are it is not my placve to decide whether I rape them of a memorial they (as human beings) choose to hold dear to them! Who and the fuck are you to come over to TAIIWAN and constantly talk SHIT about the MILLIONS of Taiwanese Citizens that choose to identify with their true heritage? You God? You a Saint? Mr. Turton the day you go before the American Institute in Taiwan and RENOUNCE you USA citizenship thus qualify for a Taiwanese citizenship, that day sir is when your voice may have a bit of credibility in Taiwan. You love Taiwan so much why dont you become a citizen?(which I know of only 2 former American guys that did it) all of you other Bloggers are too chickenshit to become Taiwanese! You can only talk shit about the 50% that dont play PRETEND with the other half.