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July 23, 2017

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Taiwanese government removes Chiang Kai-shek name from landmark memorial

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Workmen began removing giant Chinese characters from a landmark Chiang Kai-shek memorial Friday, the latest action in the Taiwan government's campaign to eradicate the "one China" legacy of the late dictator.

Chiang, who led Taiwan from 1949 to his death in 1975, was an icon of eventual unity between Taiwan and China _ an idea vigorously rejected by President Chen Shui-bian and his pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war nearly 60 years ago when Chiang and his Nationalists lost the mainland to Mao Zedong's Communist forces and fled to the island, 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the southeast coast.

The memorial, previously called the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, was rededicated earlier this year to commemorate the democratic movement.

Shortly after 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) Friday, workmen using a crane began dismantling the characters, spelling Chiang Kai-shek's alternative Chinese name, from the facade of the palace-like memorial in downtown Taipei.

The four metal characters, about 1.5 meters (5 feet) in height, spelled Chong Cheng, amid a well-known philosophical phrase from the early 16th century. The phrase, "Ta Chong Chih Cheng," means impartiality.

Pro-and anti-Chiang demonstrators, separated by riot police, gathered at the site watching the dismantlement.

Violence flared at the memorial on Thursday, when a truck driver identified as Peng Sheng-lu drove his vehicle at a group of TV cameramen, injuring one critically.

Police initially said that Peng acted without malice but later charged him with attempted murder.

Taiwan's mass circulation Apple Daily reported Friday that flags promoting unification between Taiwan and China were found in his vehicle.

The government's decision to dismantle the Chinese characters comes before next March's presidential election.

The electoral campaign, between Frank Hsieh of the DPP and Ma Ying-jeou of the main opposition Nationalists, is expected to center on Taiwan's relations with China.

Like Chiang, Ma favors eventual unification with the mainland.

In an attempt to energize its anti-Chiang core constituency, the DPP government last year began efforts to reduce Chiang's memory.

In addition to renaming the Taipei memorial, it ordered the removal of his name from Taiwan's main international airport, and dismantled dozens of Chiang statues from military bases around the island.

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