TAIPEI, Taiwan - Authorities closed the mausoleum of Taiwan's late dictator Chiang Kai-shek yesterday 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 fled to Taiwan and ruled the island with an iron fist 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.

But the move also comes amid a campaign by Chen's Democratic Progressive Party to wipe out the late leader's legacy. Authorities have renamed the Chiang Kai-shek international airport and 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 blocked a communist invasion and contributed to Taiwan's security and economic development.

Chen's government had planned to rebury Chiang's remains at a military cemetery near Taipei. Some of his relatives objected, saying Chiang should be buried in his hometown in China's eastern Zhejiang Province. But other Nationalists have objected to a burial on the mainland as long as the political standoff continues with China.