The Republic of China (ROC) national flag was raised on Thursday at Twin Oaks Estate, the former residence of ROC ambassadors to the US, for the first time since Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing 36 years ago.
The flag was raised during a ceremony held by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US on the first day of the year, a move seen as symbolizing significant progress in the Taiwan-US relationship.
In an interview with the press after the event, Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) said that the office had notified Washington beforehand about the event and received approval from US President Barack Obama’s administration provided it remained low-profile and was not televised so Beijing would not complain.
Photo courtesy of TECRO
It was an invitation-only event, which did not include members of the media, Shen said, adding that the office only notified the media via a press release after the event.
It has been difficult for the past 36 years, but Taiwan persevered and continued to foster Taiwan-US ties step-by-step, Shen said.
The ceremony was attended by several officials from TECRO, military officers posted in the US and others.
During the ceremony, Shen also conferred upon four military personnel serving in the US the Medal of Merit and the Order of Loyalty and Diligence in recognition of their devoted service to the country.
Sources said that, as US military officers are able to receive commendations in full uniform at the American Institute in Taiwan in Taipei, the US agreed to the event under the principle of reciprocity.
Participants sang the ROC national anthem before the flag was raised to the country’s national flag song.
“Twin Oaks is our estate, and it should be possible to raise our own flag and wear the military uniform of our nation on the estate,” Shen said.
The right to honor the national flag of one’s country is sacred for every citizen of any country worldwide and is a part of universal human rights that should not be oppressed by the political will of others, Shen said.
When asked whether such an event would set a precedent for coming years, Shen said that the office has always observed traditions for everything.
The improving bilateral ties helped make the ceremony possible, which ROC military officers posted in the US were able to attend while wearing their military uniforms, Shen said.
Located in Washington, Twin Oaks was the official residence of ROC ambassadors to the US between 1937 and 1978.
Taiwan was able to retain ownership of the property after Washington severed official ties with the ROC and recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1979.
For most of the time since, only cultural and social events have been allowed at Twin Oaks. However, as mutual trust between Taiwan and the US improved, the nation’s representative office was able to celebrate the ROC national day again at the venue in 2011, for the first time in 32 years.
Last year, the national anthem of the ROC was also sung at the national day reception at Twin Oaks.
At the flag-lowering ceremony at Twin Oaks on Dec. 31, 1978, before the severing of ROC-US diplomatic ties, then-deputy minister of foreign affairs Yang Hsi-kun (楊西崑) quoted US Army general Douglas MacArthur, saying: “We shall return.”
Thirty-six years later, Shen said at the same venue that “we not only returned, but we did it with dignity, respect and honor.”
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