I came early to the office today to search the wires for material I could use in tomorrow’s editorial. One drawback to writing editorials on Mondays is that the usual paucity of news developments during the weekend makes it more difficult to find something to write about (when this happens, an easy opt out is to turn to China, which on any given day is bound to have arrested, or killed, dissidents in some part of the country).
Thankfully, today some wire agencies had early on provided coverage of the renaming of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall to its original name, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall — an easy target for a pro-independence, pro-democracy editorialist, given Chiang’s murderous past.
One of the handful of agencies that carried news of this development was the consistently off-the-mark Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA), which again did not disappoint by containing a few gems of reportage.
After providing brief and, in all fairness, historically consistent background to the man’s journey from China to Taiwan, DPA wrote that despite ruling with an iron first until his death in 1975, “Many Taiwanese are grateful to Chiang Kai-shek [蔣介石] for defending Taiwan from being taken over by Communist China.”
This is just plain wrong. The Chiang regime was imposed on Taiwanese and Taiwanese were until his death at the receiving of a regime of terror, starting with the 228 Massacre of 1947, instigated by governor Chen Yi (陳儀) at Chen’s request, in which as many as 20,000 to 25,000 Taiwanese are believed to have been killed in the following weeks. If any in Taiwan were “thankful” to Chiang, it was the Chinese who fled to Taiwan along with Chiang after the Nationalist’s defeat in 1949.
Chiang’s oppression of Taiwanese became known as the White Terror era, decades during which opponents — mostly, but not only Taiwanese — of the Chiang regime were spied on, discriminated against, jailed, disappeared, or murdered. Through various accounts and historical documents, the White Terror and its abuses has been well catalogued. And yet, according to DPA, Chiang and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), who succeeded him after his death, were criticized for their so-called White Terror rule. So called? The dictionary informs us that the definition of the adjective so-called means that something is “questionable,” “subject to question” and of “questionable origin.” A proven historical fact, therefore, is now of “questionable” veracity, something to be disputed, which dovetails with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) efforts to rehabilitate Chiang’s image as the “savior” of the nation.
This, of course, would not be the first time the German agency portrayed things in a manner that is highly favorable of the KMT — and murderous tyrants, it would seem.
Authorities said that about 600 police officers were deployed at the hall to ensure public order yesterday. Another 300 were reportedly deployed in the area, including MRT stations. Defending the mobilization, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the number was in line with public safety standards, adding that it was one-tenth the size of police deployed when the hall was renamed during the DPP administration in 2007. In other words, Hau was claiming that between 6,000 and 9,000 police officers were deployed. A quick search through news archives tells us that the numbers in December 2007 were more along the lines of 600 — still high, perhaps too high, but certainly nothing that would lend credence to Hau’s claim.