Taiwan reopens Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's mausoleum

TaipeiĀ  - Taiwan's Defence Ministry reopened to the public for one day Saturday the mausoleums of the late Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) leader, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and his son Chiang Ching-kuo.

The mausoleums were ordered shut by President Chen Shui-bian, who favours independence for the self-governing island and views Chiang's legacy with distrust.

Chiang's KMT government ruled Taiwan with an iron fist after losing control of China to the Communists and fleeing across the Taiwan Strait at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Chiang died in 1975 and was succeeded by his son, the late president Chiang Ching-kuo, who died in 1988.

Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took power from the KMT in democratic elections in 2000.

He ordered the mausoleum closed in late December on the grounds that the late Chiang was responsible for sending troops to suppress an uprising in Taiwan in 1947 and killing tens of thousands of the local Taiwanese, two years before the KMT retreated to the island.

The victory of the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou in the March 22 presidential election, however, has put the anti-Chiang campaign on hold.

President-elect Ma, accompanied by his deputy Vincent Siew, went to the mausoleums outside Taipei Saturday to pay his respects to the two KMT leaders. Many Taiwanese also paid their respects.

Ma served as English secretary for Chiang Ching-kuo.

Saturday was Tomb Sweeping Day when the Chinese traditionally pay respect to their ancestors at their graves.

John Chiang, the son of Chiang Ching-kuo and a parliamentarian, asked Ma to allow the two mausoleums to remain open regularly as they did in the past before Chen launched the anti-Chiang campaign.

"After all, they had been leaders of Taiwan and deserve to be remembered," he said.

The Defence Ministry said it was up to the Presidential Office whether to reopen the mausoleums regularly.

Last week, the Education Ministry, which supervises the administration of cultural establishments, reopened to the public the hall in Taipei that houses a huge bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek.

Chen ordered that the title of the memorial be changed from Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in May.

Ma has said he would seek public opinion on whether to change the name back. (dpa)




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