In between interviews for my radio documentary on the media in Taiwan, I stumbled across a controversy at the building that honors the country’s former authoritarian leader. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall consists of an enormous edifice to the man who founded the Republic of China, and, oh yeah, imposed a state of emergency for around 40 years that suspended civil rights, including press freedom, and led to jailings and worse for thousands. The hall, which is dominated by a Lincolnesque statue of the man, is now called by some the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. Supporters of the later name recently festooned the interior with giant banners like this one marking key moments in the 1980s and 1990s movement for democracy here.
Ironically, I ran into a woman from LA at the monument who had returned to Taiwan to vote in the recent election, which returned Chiang’s political party, the KMT, to power. She thought the protest too “noisy” and I suppose in traditional Confucian culture, that’s not how things are done. But the activists hanging the banners and other progressives in this country have decided to buck tradition. And it’s some of these wonderfully “noisy” Taiwanese who I’ve been meeting with this week.