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New Zealand is currently holding a referendum on whether to change its national flag. The referendum offers voters a choice between a silver fern flag — the silver fern being a sacred object for the Maori people — and the current flag, with the Union Jack.
Giving the people of New Zealand the opportunity to choose their own national flag is one way of increasing their sense of identification with the country’s core values and ideals. If the public plumps for the change, the new flag will be flown in the Olympic Games in August.
Putting aside for the moment that New Zealand is a former colony of the British Empire, and that about half the population favor keeping the original flag, the fact the government has the courage to listen to what its public wants and to put the issue to a referendum vote is an example of genuine democracy at work, and as such deserves our approval.
The national anthem used in Taiwan and the national flag — the white sun against blue sky on a red ground — are historical products left over from the period of authoritarian rule at the hands of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). The national anthem found on the Presidential Office Web site is a variant of the KMT party song, and the flag is clearly a version of the KMT party emblem.
Neither, then, can fully represent Taiwan’s own culture or unique history.
The claim that Taiwanese singer Chou Tzu-yu’s (周子瑜) brandishing of the flag on a South Korean TV show should be interpreted as her having sympathies for Taiwanese independence stirred up mass indignation throughout Taiwan, once more bringing the issue of the national anthem and the national flag to the fore.
Taiwan has moved on, as was confirmed in the presidential election, in which the KMT candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), received only one-third of the votes.
How is it that a minority of people get to insist that Taiwan continues to use a national anthem and flag stuffed to the nines with ideological meaning?
Could we not learn from the example set by New Zealand, and change our national anthem and national flag through a national referendum? It is certainly worth exploring.
New Taipei City
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