Taipei, National Chengchi University (NCCU) has decided to press charges after the leg of an equestrian statue of Chiang Kai-shek on campus was cut off early Friday, allegedly by university students unhappy with what they called "authoritarian symbols" on campuses.
NCCU Secretary-General Her Lai-jier said that the school has decided to press charges and seek compensation against the individual or individuals who carried out the action.
Her said that while freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Constitution, the school does not support advocating such freedom through violence or illegal means.
According to the police, the statue was also splashed with red paint and had a banner tied to it that said "do not forget the 228 Incident."
The 228 Incident refers to the brutal crackdown by the then-authoritarian Kuomintang (KMT) government headed by Chiang after an anti-government uprising in 1947.
The crackdown, which continued into May that year, left an estimated 18,000 to 28,000 people dead, many of them members of the intellectual elite, according to an Executive Yuan report in 1992.
Hsu Che-jung a student at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, claimed responsibility for the vandalism at a Friday press conference, accompanied by his supporters.
Hsu said he carried out the act because he wanted society to square up to the necessity of implementing transitional justice.
He argued that low-level accomplices of the authoritarian system should be removed first, which explains why he chopped off the horse's leg rather than Chiang's head.
He said he respects the judicial process and will face up to his legal responsibilities for his actions.
A group that calls itself "Shot for Democracy" shared a statement issued by the alleged vandals on its Facebook page Friday, in which they identified themselves as a group of university students concerned about transitional justice in Taiwan.
As long as the worship of dictators continues to exist on campuses, Taiwanese students will have to live in the shadows of dictatorship, they wrote, adding that they hope to take action to support transitional justice.
The Transitional Justice Commission, an independent government agency tasked with investigating injustices carried out by the KMT during the martial law era, issued a statement asserting that it is the commission's statutory duty to deal with the symbols of authoritarianism.
While the commission does everything in its power to fulfill its responsibility, it still has to communicate with parties that have differing opinions so as to come up with the most appropriate approach to promote transitional justice, the statement said.
The commission understands why young students and some citizens share the urgency of implementing transitional justice and thereby carry out the work with their own hands, but it expressed regret over the campus vandalism incident.
According to the commission, there are 1,053 statues of Chiang in public spaces in Taiwan, along with 277 stored at Cihu in Taoyuan and 513 on campuses islandwide.
NCCU passed a motion in 2017 that called for a Chiang statue inside the main library to be removed as part of efforts to promote human rights and transitional justice.
The statue was moved to Hua Hsing Children's Home, an institution founded by Chiang's wife Soong Mei-ling in Taipei's Shilin District.
The vandalised statue remains on campus.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel