Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

I went to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall on Saturday at around noon. On Friday, workers had removed the Chinese characters glorifying Chiang Kai-shek from the massive arch in front of the hall, amid both protests and cheers.

This is part of the government's massive effort to de-Chiangify Taiwan - the main international airport, which was Chiang Kai-shek International Airport when I first came to Taiwan, has already been renamed Taoyuan International Airport. The subway station still bears Chiang's name. (It's been confirmed that the station's name will not be changed, says the Taipei Times.)This is what the scene looked like at around noon on Saturday. The three points of interest: (1) CKS Memorial Hall is completely sealed off with barbed wire, (2) the grand archway is completely devoid of any lettering, and (3) there are no large crowds. That last one really surprised me.Lots of news crews, though.Overall, I was surprised at the general peacefulness and the lack of crowds. I'd expected more protests.

I returned with Jenna at around 3:00, when workers were beginning to put the new lettering up on the archway - and things were getting more interesting.

Here's the scene when we came back. The guys on the crane are putting the first of the new letters up. There's a much bigger crowd. Still not many protesters - most of the people seemed more cheerful and/or curious than anything.The work begins.Despite a few people who were upset (mostly pro-KMT folk who didn't want to see the name changed), it was a very safe and peaceful crowd, as evidenced by all the little dogs.And the guy with the parrot.The crowds grew as the work progressed. There was much cheering after the first letter was firmly placed on the archway.One person brought red wine and distributed it in plastic cups.The work is half done.A popular sentiment among the Green (anti-KMT) supporters.The whole scene was very peaceful. Even among the protesting KMT contingent, few people became unruly, though there was one middle-aged woman wielding a Taiwan/ROC flag and shouting what I think were pro-KMT slogans, and one or two people seeking a verbal confrontation with the police officers. I was very surprised at the lack of organization among the pro-KMT people - I really expected more of an organized protest.

We did not stay to see the work completed, but the full scoop on the day's events and a picture of the completed work can be seen at the Taipei Times website.

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