Fri, May 11, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Australian kids’ art project victim of China pressure

Staff writer, with CNA

A bull statue that was painted by Australian schoolchildren, including a fish shape bearing the colors of the Republic of China flag and the Chinese characters for Taiwan, is displayed in Rockhampton, Australia.

Photo: Screengrab from Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Web Site

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday urged Australia to prevent “certain political opinions” from interfering with cultural events after parts of a children’s art project representing Taiwan were painted over due to pressure from China.

The representative office in Brisbane, Australia, is attempting to contact the relevant Australian organizations to express the view that political interference should not be allowed in cultural activities, ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said.

The office is also seeking further details on the matter from Australian authorities and the organizers of the children’s art project, which was part of a major international expo, he said.

The authorities and those involved would be asked to cherish the common values of freedom, democracy and respect for cultural diversity, and not allow political opinions to interfere with cultural activities, he added.

The Chinese government and certain individuals have been going all-out to suppress Taiwan’s international space, using strategies such as asking international airlines to refer to Taiwan as part of China, and have now ratcheted up their efforts by resorting to political interference in a cultural event, Lee said.

“Such actions will only serve to anger Taiwanese and will not contribute to the positive development of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

The ministry and its overseas representative offices would continue to safeguard Taiwan’s national sovereignty and the rights of its people abroad, while actively calling on the international community to respect those rights, he said.

Students from various schools in Rockhampton, Queensland, were asked by the regional council to paint six bull statues for the Beef Australia expo, Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) reported.

Taiwan-born siblings Amber Jun Xie and Iu Ting Xie painted a Republic of China flag in the shape of a fish on one of the statues, ABC said.

However, when the statue was erected it was noticed that the flag and their other painting on the front leg and rear of the statue had been painted over, the broadcaster said.

“Advance Rockhampton made a decision to change one bull statue on display in Quay Street in line with the Australian government’s approach of adhering to the ‘one China’ policy,” Tony Cullen, general manager of Advance Rockhampton, which implements the regional council’s development policy, was quoted as saying by ABC.

While the Australian government does not display Republic of China flags, there is no federal directive to state or local governments about what they should do in such cases, ABC said.

The broadcaster quoted the students’ mother, Amy Chen, as saying that her children were “very sad and disappointed” by the council’s decision to paint over their flags.

“It’s like a slap in the face — what message are they [the council] sending to them?” Chen said. “You can’t tell me a group of Chinese delegates are going to be upset by two Taiwanese flags in the shape of a barramundi fish.”

Earlier this year, Australian airline Qantas was asked to remove references to Taiwan as a nation on its Web site due to pressure from China.

In response, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop warned China against trying to exert pressure on private companies.

The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration had also written to 36 international airlines, asking them not to refer to Taiwan as separate from China.

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