Amid tight security around the Presidential Office, the Republic of China (ROC) yesterday celebrated its 99th anniversary with foreign dignitaries, floats, fireworks and a bit of politics.
More than 200 foreign dignitaries attended the morning ceremony, including Sao Tome and Principe President Fradique de Menezes, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Danny Philip, senior officials from Gambia and Palau, as well as lawmakers from South Korea, Japan, Switzerland and other countries.
People who wished to enter the cordoned off area, where the official ceremony was held, had to present special passes at checkpoints. Any bag larger than 30cm-by-30cm was not allowed in the area and umbrellas were confiscated. Attendants carrying bottled water had to drink it in front of security details to prove that the liquid was safe.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青), wearing a satin dress decorated in 24K gold foil by Taiwanese designer Jason Wu (吳季剛), greeted guests at the Presidential Office before the commencement of the ceremonies.
Before Ma delivered his Double Ten National Day address outside the Presidential Office, Chinese cross-talk (相聲) master Wu Jau-nan (吳兆南) performed with New Party Taipei City Councilor Hou Guan-qun (侯冠群) and model Tini Yuan (袁曉婷).
Hou said the ROC national anthem had been changed many times, adding that the “Chinese nation” had its first national anthem during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
One was adopted on Oct. 4, 1911, but the Qing Dynasty was overthrown six days later.
Wu greeted foreign dignitaries and “compatriots in mainland China,” saying any “fellow countryman in the mainland” older than 61 was once a ROC citizen.
According to Wu, the first national anthem of the ROC was selected on April 8, 1913, when commander of the Beiyang Army Yuan Shikai (袁世凱) became “Great President” of the ROC.
From then on, Wu said, the national anthem of the ROC again changed a number of times until 1928, when the current national anthem was circulated. It was officially adopted as the ROC national anthem in 1943 after it was honored as the world’s best national anthem at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he said.
Wu said that despite changes in time and space, the lyrics of the ROC national anthem could stimulate unity and patriotism.
“The lyrics are great,” he said. “I enjoy singing it.”
Tenor Fernando Wang (王典) and former professional singers Jeanette Wang (王芷蕾) and Betty Pai(白嘉莉) were invited to sing the national anthem at the ceremony.
In the afternoon, about 100,000 people flooded the streets near -Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to watch the National Day parade.
The parade — the first to be organized jointly by the government and civic groups — began at 2pm with six children dedicating bouquets to six “glories of Taiwan,” including vegetable vendor and philanthropist Chen Shu-chu (陳樹菊) and Olympic Taekwondo gold medalist Chu Mu-yen (朱木炎).
In all, 35 floats and about 20 troupes set off for the 4.8km parade to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall after Ma and other political heavyweights blew horns.
Giant man-shaped balloons dressed in different ethno-cultural outfits — a symbol of Taiwan’s diversity — filled the air, while the Paper Windmill Theater Troupe performed a symbolic fight between Don Quixote and a dragon, representing the many challenges that surrounded the ROC’s creation.