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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 May 2007, 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK
Taiwan to rename Chiang landmark
By Caroline Gluck
BBC News, Taipei

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
One of Taipei's best known landmarks and tourist spots, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, is to be officially renamed in a ceremony.

President Chiang led Taiwan's first government after fleeing China in 1949.

The renaming is part of government efforts to remove reminders of Taiwan's authoritarian past and its links to its political rival, mainland China.

President Chen Shui-bian is expected to unveil a plaque renaming the building as the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall.

An exhibition inside the hall, entitled Goodbye President Chiang, will also be opened, documenting the island's fight for democracy.

'Timely move'

The move to rename Taipei's landmark building was approved at a cabinet meeting earlier this month.

Officials said Taiwan was a democracy and did not need monuments honouring a dictator.

But it is proving a highly controversial decision, with many opponents questioning the legality of such a step.

Among the critics is Taipei city mayor, Hau Lung-Bin, who is a member of the island's opposition Kuomintang or Nationalist party.

He has accused the government of making the decision for ideological and electoral reasons.

He has also baulked at changing the name of adjacent bus and subway stops in line with the monument's planned name change, saying it would cost about $230,000 (116,000; 170,000 euros).

But advocates say the move is timely - and the island no longer needs so many reminders of its authoritarian past.

Trial calls

Chiang Kai-shek, who once governed all of China, fled with his Nationalist troops to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communists.

He set up a rival government in Taipei and ruled the island with an iron grip.

But the legacy of the military strongman, once revered as a hero, is increasingly coming under attack.

His statues have been removed from many schools, public buildings and military barracks and his name was recently erased from Taiwan's main international airport.

There have also been calls for him to face a posthumous trial after a government-backed report said he bore the greatest responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Taiwanese killed by troops he had sent from China to suppress an uprising 60 years ago.

The future fate of a huge bronze statue of Chiang, which sits inside the memorial hall, is still unclear.

It is also unclear if other plans will go ahead to tear down the elaborately latticed outer walls of the building to make the park more accessible to ordinary citizens.

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