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De-Chiang-ization demonizes Ma

After Joseph Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev was elected first secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. He condemned Stalin and his tyrannical methods before a party congress in Moscow in 1956. Stalin was charged with cultivating a “personality cult” and subverting Communist aims. Khrushchev eliminated the names of Stalin, Molotov, Malenkov and other supporters of Stalin from regions, cities and other sites in 1961-62 and removed Stalin’s body from the Lenin-Stalin tomb in Moscow in what came to be known as his de-Stalinization campaign.

Thirty-two years after Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, President Chen Shui-bian is carrying on a de-Chiang-ization campaign. Taipei has an international airport named after the president who ruled Taiwan from 1950 until his death. Chen had it changed to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport early last year. Chiang’s statues have been removed from military barracks and public parks. One of his giant bronze statues enshrined in the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in Kaohsiung was cut up in chunks and carted away to Tahsi, a small village in the county of Taoyuan where it has joined scores of smaller ones in a small “graveyard” near the two mausoleums where the remains of the generalissimo and his son Chiang Ching-kuo are kept until a permanent interment can take place.

The campaign was highlighted by Chen’s denunciation of Chiang as the “chief culprit” of the Feb. 28 Incident of 1947 and the “butcher” for the massive executions that followed in Taiwan under martial law. Tens of thousands of native-born islanders were massacred after spontaneous riots following the killing of an onlooker by a stray bullet at a mob scene in Taipei on the previous day. The slaughter was carried out by government troops dispatched to Taiwan from China by Chiang’s orders. After Chiang’s arrival in Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, thousands of communists and communist sympathizers were arrested, convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. Many of them were executed. Hundreds of others were arrested on false charges in what is called the reign of white terror.

Then, like Khrushchev who de-Stalinized the Soviet Union, President Chen ordered the elimination of Chiang’s name from all public places. The first to drop mention of Chiang Kai-shek was the memorial dedicated to him in the heart of Taipei. It was renamed the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. The major battle in the war over the Chiang Kai-shek memorial was fought between Hau Lung-bin, mayor of Taipei, and Tu Cheng-sheng, minister of education. Their battleground was the main gate to the memorial which bears what the latter thinks is the given name of Chiang Kai-shek. The four giant Chinese characters screwed in place on their stone arch base above the lintel of the pailou-like gate read Da Zhong Zhi Zheng, or literally Great Mean/Perfect Uprightness. The second and fourth of the quartet, combined, correspond to Chiang’s preferred name of Zhong-zheng. (Chiang’s given name in childhood was Zhizing, but he adopted the name of Zhong-zheng after he had become commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy in Canton or Guangzhou, where his literary name of Jieshi in Mandarin (Hard Rock) was transliterated as Kai-shek.) The Taipei mayor, whose father General Hau Pei-tsun was a cadet at Chiang’s military academy, wanted to keep the gate intact.

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