The 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung ended with hundreds of spectators waving the Republic of China (ROC) flag. The so-called “Olympic model” only requires that Taiwan participate in international sports events under the name “Chinese Taipei,” but it does not prohibit spectators from bringing ROC flags to sports events.
Ahead of the Games’ opening ceremony, the public was concerned whether national flags would be banned at the event. During the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2001, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who was then the mayor of Taipei, ignored a statement by the Sports Affairs Council that the “Olympic model” does not bar spectators from carrying national flags. Independence activists had launched an online appeal calling on spectators to bring national flags to challenge the impression that Ma upholds the flag. The city government responded by cracking down and prohibiting any display of the flag at the event. A series of similar incidents occurred in 2005, still under Ma’s mayoral term, when the ROC flag was banned at the International Auto Gymkhana, the Asian Judo Championships and the Asian Short Track Speed Skating championship.
Despite calling for the protection of the national title and flag, pan-blue politicians have long belittled the nation. In 1993, Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), the vice chairman of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee at the time, traveled to China to resolve “political issues” that could have obstructed the visit to Taiwan of a men’s basketball team from Liaoning Province and a women’s basketball team from Hebei Province. The result was that Tang Ming-hsin (湯明新), former secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association, removed an ROC flag at a press conference to welcome the Chinese athletes. In addition, the national flag and a statue of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) were covered during the games at the National College of Physical Education and Sports gymnasium in Taichung.
Past experience shows that Chinese sports teams and ROC flags never appear together at international games. If Taiwan insists on its rights, the Chinese teams pull out. Knowing that the ROC flag would be present at the World Games in Kaohsiung, the Chinese team skipped the opening and closing ceremonies.
The majority of pan-green supporters do not identify with the blood-stained ROC flag, yet, ironically, many of them feel excited when they see it overseas. Pan-green supporters also hold ROC citizenship, have to pay taxes and are eligible to run for public office. In addition, the pan-green camp was in power for eight years. Even if the Constitution is out of pace with the times, they should accept the fact that the Republic of China exists.
Although the pan-green camp is upset that the KMT brought the ROC and its flag to Taiwan, a look at history shows that many Taiwanese welcomed the ROC in 1945. It was only after the 228 Incident and the White Terror that Taiwanese came to realize the brutality of the KMT. The national title and flag are innocent as they are but tools with which the KMT oppressed the public.
While hardline pan-green supporters hope to establish a new, independent country with a new national title and flag, most people are not very keen to do so. Many people have also complained that the national title — the ROC — may be confusing to the international community. But since Taiwan is a democracy, the national title and flag must be changed through democratic means.
As a matter of fact, it is only the pan-green camp that is brave enough to display the national flag and say that Taiwan is an independent, sovereign state that is not subordinate to China. They do not succumb to Chinese pressure. When Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) referred to Ma as “our president” during her visit to China to promote the World Games, she did better than any pan-blue government official. The KMT will never cross the bottom line set by China — that Taiwan belongs to China.
Many have been moved by the sight of Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如) waving a national flag cheering for Taiwanese teams at sports events round the world. Because of this, she was refused entry to China when she was going to cheer for the Taiwanese baseball team at the Olympic Games last year. Last November, when Chinese envoy Chen Yun-lin (陳雲林) visited Taiwan, the government blasted pan-green supporters for carrying the national flag during protests. This highlights the difference between the pan-blue and the pan-green camps. Pan-green supporters now openly wave the national flag because it normally disappears when China makes an appearance. This will continue to be the case because the pan-blue camp dares not cross the line drawn by China for the sake of “cross-strait harmony.”
Hsu Chien-jung is a doctoral candidate at Monash University, Australia.
TRANSLATED BY TED YANG
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