Scuffles in new Taiwan row over Chiang Kai-shek

  • World
  • Thursday, 06 Dec 2007

TAIPEI (Reuters) - A motorist drove into a crowd of journalists on Thursday, injuring six, outside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial where activists and police had clashed over efforts to delete references to the late strongman, media said. 

Politics is bitterly polarised in Taiwan, where Chiang fled after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communists in 1949, and this week's clashes come a month before crucial parliamentary elections. 

Hundreds of reporters, activists and police have gathered this week outside the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, known until earlier this year as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial to watch officials prepare to clamber over a gate to remove Chinese writing that memorialise Chiang. 

A light truck driven by a man, who some witnesses say was among the activists in support of removing the Chiang references, knocked down a TV cameraman and lightly injured two others. 

"We don't know why he hit us," said Wang Chian-chiang, a cameraman with Taiwan's FTV who was knocked over but got up without help. "I thought it was intentional. I was surprised. I had never seen anything like it before." 

After ruling all of China in the 1940s, Chiang's Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to Taiwan where Chiang ruled with an iron hand until his death in 1975. 

Today's ruling Democratic Progressive Party wants to diminish his image by changing the Chinese characters above the gate to read "Freedom Plaza." The KMT-controlled Taipei city government opposes the move as an unauthorised change to a historic landmark. 

Nearly every major city in Taiwan has streets named after Chiang, but there have been many attempts to wash out his ever present image in the country, including renaming Chiang Kai-shek International Airport and removing his statues from public places. 

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