EDITORIAL: Now Ma suddenly loves the ROC flag

Thu, Sep 29, 2011 - Page 8

After a recent TV campaign blitz launched by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign office featuring the Republic of China (ROC) national flag, one cannot help but wonder whether Ma’s campaign staff are deranged or are simply assuming for some unknown reason that Taiwanese will not remember Ma’s track record on the national flag.

One TV ad released by Ma’s campaign office focused on the passion Taiwanese feel for the flag and the nation, while another thanked anyone who had ever waved an ROC flag, praising their patriotism and calling them the true guardians of the nation’s dignity.

Unfortunately for Ma, while he may see nothing ironic about holding himself up as a defender of Taiwanese dignity, the two TV ads remind people of the way the ROC flag has been trampled on during his three years in office.

Ma’s crimes against the flag can be traced back even further.

As Taipei mayor he urged soccer fans not to display ROC national flags at Taipei City’s Zhongshan Soccer Stadium when it hosted the 2001 Asian Women’s Soccer Championship.

Even if people have trouble remembering that far back, they are unlikely to have forgotten how in 2005 Ma instructed the Taipei City Government — then co-sponsor of the Asian Judo Championship and the International Auto Gymkhana — to dissuade fans from bringing national flags to competition venues.

Ma’s love of the flag has been no more in evidence since he became president in May 2008.

Indeed, images of policemen forcefuly removing ROC flags when Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visited in November that year are a defining moment of Ma’s presidency for many.

If not that incident, then how about the way ROC national flags were removed along the route the day the two giant pandas sent as a gift by China arrived in Taiwan and made their way from the airport to the Taipei Zoo.

Here is another example: Less than a year ago, spectators attending a basketball game between Taiwan University All-Stars and China’s Tianjin Polytechnic University at Kainan University in Taoyuan, were “asked” to take down a 1m high ROC flag.

Perhaps we should applaud Ma’s boldness and take it as a case of “better late than never” now that he and his campaign team are publicly encouraging Taiwanese to wave ROC flags as an expression of patriotism.

However, as neither ad bothers to apologize for Ma’s record of banning the display of ROC flags, the public has every right to be suspicious about this sudden embrace of the flag as a patriotic symbol, less than four months before a presidential election.

However heart-warming and uplifting these TV ads might be, ignoring Ma’s history of flag abuse in the face of Chinese pressure might make for a good ad, but the willingness to cynically edit history for political ends is simply unbecoming to a vibrant democracy and indicative of a mind-set that Taiwanese must reject outright.