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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 March 2007, 08:28 GMT
Taiwanese party expels minister
Taiwanese soldiers in front of a statue of Chiang Kai-shek
The ruling party wants statues of Chiang Kai-shek to be removed
Taiwan's main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), has expelled Defence Minister Lee Jye because of a row over statues of late leader Chiang Kai-shek.

Mr Lee had complied with a government order for statues of Mr Chiang to be removed from military premises.

The ruling DPP party says that the statues represent authoritarian rule and are not in keeping with democracy.

But the KMT says the government is trying to eradicate history and cut off Taiwan's Chinese heritage.

The dispute highlights a growing debate about Mr Chiang's legacy in Taiwan.

Identity issue

Chiang Kai-shek led the Nationalist forces against the Chinese Communists in a civil war in which he was defeated and forced to flee to Taiwan in 1949.

He ruled Taiwan for 26 years and his KMT party continued to govern until the election victory in 2000 of the Democratic Progressive Party.

Since taking office, DPP leader President Chen Shui-bian has advocated Taiwanese independence and sought to emphasise Taiwan's separate identity from China.

KMT spokesman Su Jun-pin said Mr Lee's actions had damaged the party's image.

"He also removed Chiang Kai-shek's statues, which is disrespectful and didn't conform to military ethics... He just does whatever the ruling party tells him to do," Reuters news agency quoted Mr Su as saying.

Mr Lee, the most senior KMT official in the current government, said he regretted the decision but added that he had no plans to join the ruling party.

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