For a few days it proudly flew, nudged between Syria and Tajikistan, amid rows of national flags festooning London’s Regent Street as the city prepares for the Olympics. Suddenly, for reasons unknown, but easily guessed at, it was pulled down, leaving a sad gap in the otherwise festive display of global fraternity.
Granted, the Republic of China (ROC) flag is for many people not a national flag but rather a symbol of a regime that imposed itself on Taiwan after World War II, one that, furthermore, unleashed decades of repression on its people. And yet, despite all the hardships, it now stands as the most readily recognizable symbol of nationhood for all Taiwanese.
Yes, it was first woven as the symbol of a political party in China; and yes, it officially stands for the ROC, but over the years, through the long process of democratization and national consolidation, both the ROC and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have become part of the fabric that makes Taiwan what it is today. For people outside Asia who know little about this region’s convoluted history, nothing more immediately distinguishes Taiwan from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) than the ROC flag.
The reaction among Taiwanese worldwide to the removal of the flag on Regent Street testifies to the strength of that symbol. Hours after it was taken down, online social networks and blogs exploded with “before and after” pictures of the street, accompanied by expressions of anger and indignation. Thousands of people — mostly young Taiwanese — mobilized, providing contact information about the civic organization that is responsible for the site, writing letters and visiting the location to take pictures of themselves holding the flag.
With very few exceptions, all referred to the flag as standing for Taiwan, not the KMT or the ROC, and reaffirmed their pride in being Taiwanese, which confirms the view that the once-exogenous flag has been rehabilitated into an indigenous one. Though it took over Taiwan, the ROC has since been absorbed by it, resulting in a symbiotic relationship that continually redefines itself and gives Taiwan its identity.
The strong reaction among Taiwanese, though prompted by disheartening political realities, is encouraging. For one, it debunks the claim that young Taiwanese today are apolitical and cannot be bothered with the future of their homeland. It shows us that on fundamental issues of justice, young Taiwanese will not sit idly by. It also tells us that despite their busy lives (several of those who mobilized are graduate students scattered all over the world), they know who they are and will not countenance anyone telling them otherwise.
One young Taiwanese living in the US could not have put it more bluntly, saying: “Fuck that de facto shit,” referring to Taiwan’s sovereign status.
Another offshoot of this incident is that it demonstrates yet again that despite currently stable relations in the Taiwan Strait, the 23 million Taiwanese continue to live under a shadow that prevents them from exercising their rights as citizens of the world. China’s “goodwill” and “peaceful” cross-strait relations remain contingent on Beijing seeing no true expression of Taiwanese statehood, irrespective of the venue. It has since been confirmed that the flag incident on Regent Street was the result of complaints by Chinese representatives, accentuating China’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of Taiwanese as a people.
With the world’s eyes turned on London over the next few weeks, this is the perfect occasion for Taiwanese and their supporters to express who they are and to demonstrate that the so-called “peace” has rotten foundations. As one flag is ignominiously taken down, hundreds, thousands more should bloom all over London. For the next two weeks, London will be the world’s stage. This is an opportunity not to be missed.
In the closing weeks of 2000, an army of Singaporean government officials descended on Washington to make good on a handshake between then-US President Bill Clinton and Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong (吳作棟). They had agreed to strike an FTA after a round of golf in Brunei that past November. Running a small city-state, Singapore’s leaders and their diplomats live with their ear to the ground, attuned to the slightest geopolitical movements. They were motivated then by a big-picture strategic concern — keeping the US embedded in their region. An FTA they thought would help do that. It worked. Clinton’s successor,
On Oct. 7, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi sent letters to the Indian media asking them to refrain from calling Taiwan a country while reporting on its 109th National Day, which fell on Saturday last week. This move backfired and, on the contrary, contributed to the immense popularity of Taiwan among Indians, leading to an outpouring of congratulations for it on Twitter. Asked about the letter, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said: “There is a free media that reports on issues as it sees fit.” Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Tajinder Singh Bagga put up several banners outside the
On Oct. 6, the UN Committee on Human Rights released a statement on the concentration camps in China’s Xinjiang region in which at least 1 million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities are incarcerated. On the same day, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) was telling delegates at a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) meeting that “happiness among the people in Xinjiang is on the rise.” It was a stark reminder of the CCP’s longstanding practice of trampling on human rights and deceiving the world. In October last year, the Taiwan East Turkestan Association and the Taiwan Friends of Tibet held an event titled
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)