Tue, Oct 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Flags to fly at half-mast for Madame Chiang's funeral

OFFICIAL HOMAGE The Presidential Office said the funeral arrangements for the former first lady are a state event and the president will pay his respects

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Presidential Office decided yesterday to accord state mourning for former first lady Soong Mayling (宋美齡) and so flags will be flown at half-mast on the day she is buried.

Deputy Secretary-General of the Presidential Office Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said the funeral arrangements for Soong, also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, should be regarded as an important state event rather than just the business of a family or political party.

"According to the Presidential Office's latest plan, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will go directly to Madame Chiang's residence as soon as he arrives in New York on the afternoon of Oct. 31," Wu said.

"The president will deliver an official commendation praising Madame Chiang's outstanding contributions to the Republic of China [ROC]," he said.

Chen is scheduled to begin his fourth diplomatic trip -- to Panama -- on Friday and will make a two-night stopover in New York.

Wu said that Chen had told his staff to make adjustments to his New York schedule and make Madame Chiang's memorial service a priority.

Although some Chiang family members have expressed opposition to Chen or other members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) attending the memorial service, Wu said, "The president, on behalf of the country, is willing to pay tribute and offer condolences over Madame Chiang's death."

The family is also divided on whether to ask Chen to drape the ROC flag on Soong's coffin.

Those relatives who were with Soong before she died last Thursday have said they would like to see Chen drape the flag on her coffin. They told reporters on Sunday that if Chen was willing to place the flag, they would postpone the funeral, scheduled for Thursday, by one day to allow time for Chen to arrive.

However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴), the illegitimate son of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), said that it would be inappropriate to allow a DPP president to carry out the "flag-draping" for the former KMT first lady.

Chiang Fang Chih-yi (蔣方智怡), widow of Chiang Ching-kuo's (蔣經國) son Chiang Hsiao-yung (蔣孝勇), told reporters in New York yesterday that Madame Chiang would not have liked such an arrangement.

"She devoted her entire life to defending the ROC. For that reason she even decided to cut relations with her elder sister, who joined the Chinese Communist Party," Chiang Fang Chih-yi said. "I believe that she would not allow a president who doesn't recognize the ROC to drape the flag."

Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) said there are no plans for Chen to place a flag on the coffin as there is no precedent for the head of state draping the national flag for anyone's coffin.

"We have suggested the president bring a flag and present it to Chiang's relatives," he said.

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