2007-12-23 21:42:23 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
This undated file photo shows the Chiang Kai-shek mausoleum in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan. (Photo/cns)
TAIPEI -- Authorities closed the mausoleum of Taiwan's late leader Chiang Kai-shek on Monday as part of the ruling party's vigorous campaign to diminish the legacy of the late leader.
The Defense Ministry ordered the guards to pull out and closed the spacious mausoleum in Taoyuan in northern Taiwan, shutting out dozens of people hoping to pay their respects.
Chiang ruled Taiwan with an iron grip after his Nationalists were defeated by Mao Zedong's communists on the mainland in 1949. His 1975 burial in the mausoleum was meant to be temporary -- until the Nationalists could one day return to rule the mainland.
On Sunday, President Chen Shui-bian told a political rally that closing the mausoleum would save taxpayers' money.
Chen's Democratic Progressive Party has led a campaign to wipe out the late leader's legacy, including renaming the Chiang Kai-shek international airport as Taoyuan Airport. Authorities also renamed a park commemorating Chiang in the capital, Taipei.
DPP officials say the democratic island should stop honoring a dictator. But many members of the Nationalist Party -- now the main opposition -- say Chiang contributed to the island's security and economic development.
Chen's government planned to rebury Chiang's remains at a military cemetery near Taipei. But some of his relatives objected, saying Chiang should be buried in his hometown in China's eastern Zhejiang Province.