The residents of a neighborhood in Taipei’s Songshan District (松山) woke up on Monday morning to the perplexing sight of hundreds of Chinese national flags blanketing several city blocks around Fu Jin Street (富錦街).
The slew of small yellow-starred red flags were tucked into mailboxes, draped over fences, adorning storefronts, planted in flower beds, and hung from trees and hedges lining the street.
A Songshan resident surnamed Fang (方) said he was out doing his morning exercises at about 5am on Monday when he saw the flags.
The flags’ plastic poles bore the message: hua du jian tong (化獨漸統), which means “Turn [Taiwanese] independence into gradual unification [with China].”
Many residents said they were alarmed by the political symbolism of the Chinese flags and joined in the efforts to remove the unusual street decorations.
Some of the people at the scene posted photographs of the street on social media sites, sparking anxiety and outrage among netizens.
“Are we unified with China already?” one commentator asked, while another queried: “Has this street been sold to China?”
Other netizens mocked the nation’s political leaders, saying that the politicians were selling Taiwan out to China.
“Is it not enough for the President [Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)] to have a red Chinese flag in his heart?” one person commented.
“I won’t be surprised to see the five-star red flag being flown at the Presidential Office Building one day,” they added.
On the same morning, there were reports of Chinese flags along Yung Kang Street (永康街) in Taipei’s Daan District (大安).
After reviewing surveillance camera footage yesterday, the police said that three women with their faces covered by medical masks had been captured on film planting the flags.
The three suspects were filmed carrying tote bags as they walked along Fu Jin Street at approximately 3:30am on Monday, planting the flags as they moved briskly along.
A Taipei City Police Department official said that since the distribution of pamphlets, advertisements and flags is covered under laws protecting freedom of speech, the department does not usually interfere in the dissemination of such materials, unless it results in the obstruction of traffic.
However, the official added that when an excessive volume of material is distributed, the Environmental Protection Agency is asked to send a cleaning crew.
Lu Shih-chang (盧世昌), Deputy Director of the agency’s Taipei office, said that if items like the flags are placed on public property, sidewalks or streets, the person responsible can be fined between NT$1,200 and NT$6,000 under the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法).