Taiwan protesters pelt Chiang Kai-shek’s statue with paint

Barricades placed at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall entrance in Taipei, February 2018. (AFP pic)

TAIPEI: Protesters threw egg shells filled with red paint onto a statue of former leader Chiang Kai-shek at one of Taiwan’s best-known landmarks Friday, as the island grapples with its authoritarian past.

The imposing Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall in the capital Taipei is a popular tourist attraction and the bronze 6.3-metre-tall (20-feet) seated statue is its centrepiece.

Police said two people were detained after the sculpture was left smeared with red paint and egg shells strewn around its base.

Chiang is seen by many as symbolic of a brutal military regime which purged thousands of opponents until his death in 1975 and it is not the first time his statues have been targeted.

For many youths on the island, Chiang is also synonymous with the authoritarianism that wary Taiwanese now equate with mainland China, which still views the self-ruling island as part of its territory.

“Let the red paint symbolising the blood of the victims once again spread over this absurd shrine,” the group which organised the protest said in a statement on Facebook.

They called for all relics of Chiang to be removed, including his mausoleum.

Chiang and his nationalist Kuomintang troops fled from the mainland to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Communist forces.

Although Taiwan today is a fully-fledged democracy, it was only in December that a bill was passed to tackle the legacy of injustices under Chiang.

It included a call for streets and schools with names commemorating Chiang to be changed and his statues taken down.

Discussions are also underway about whether the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall should be repurposed, as relatives of the victims say it serves as a painful reminder.

A group of mostly young activists splashed red paint on Chiang’s mausoleum in February, on the 71st anniversary of a brutal Kuomintang massacre of protesters that preluded decades of political purges.

Ten people were charged in that incident and are due in court later Friday for the first day of trial.

However, there are still plenty of people in Taiwan who still revere Chiang as a hero for leading his troops against Communist forces and fighting the Japanese during World War II.

The government formed a commission in May to conduct a full investigation in Taiwan’s period of repression, granting justice and compensation to those who were wrongly persecuted.