Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -– Stanford University, holder of one of the largest collections related to the Chinese Nationalist Party, sued Chiang Kai-shek’s descendants to resolve competing claims for ownership of the party leader’s personal diaries, which were loaned to the university in 2004.
Stanford’s board of trustees seeks a court order shielding the school from lawsuits over the papers and requiring the descendants to “litigate amongst themselves his or her rights or claims” to the diaries, according to a complaint filed in federal court in San Jose, California.
Stanford’s Hoover Institution was loaned the papers, consisting of 51 boxes of materials with hundreds of thousands of pages, by the daughter-in-law of Chiang Ching-kuo, Chiang Kai-shek’s son. Since then, the school has received claims of ownership by several of Ching-kuo’s grandchildren and other relatives in Taiwan, as well as differing instructions regarding the handling of the papers, Mark Litvack, an attorney for Stanford, said in the complaint.
“Plaintiff is ready, willing and able to return” the papers “to the person(s) or entity(ies) legally entitled to it or parts of it, but under the circumstances, plaintiff does not know and cannot determine to whom the” documents should be delivered, according to the complaint.
Chiang Kai-shek headed the nationalist government in China from 1928 to 1949, when his party, known as the Kuonmintang, fled the mainland to Taiwan after a civil war against Mao Zedong’s Communists. He ruled Taiwan for an additional 26 years and died in 1975. He kept personal diaries from at least 1917 to 1972, according to the Stanford complaint.
The Communist Party still deems Taiwan a renegade province that must be unified with China, by force if necessary.
The Hoover Institution holds hundreds of pre-1949 Chinese publications that barely exist in present-day China and the personal papers of numerous modern Chinese leaders, according to the complaint.
“We are reluctantly turning to a court for assistance,” Eryn Witcher, a Hoover spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “Hoover is not advocating for one outcome or another; Hoover is simply looking for clarity so it can either return the materials to its proper owner(s), or continue to hold the materials for the proper owner(s).”
Chiang family members in the San Francisco bay area couldn’t immediately be reached.
The case is The Board of Trustees for the Leland Stanford Junior University v. Chiang Fang Chi-yi, 13-cv-04383, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
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