Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators invited the public yesterday to come up with “Taiwanese” nicknames for the pair of giant pandas presented by China, which bear names that the lawmakers contend are suggestive of Beijing’s efforts to suppress Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Submissions and voting for the new names are being accepted on the personal blog of DPP Legislator Twu Shiing-jer, with results to be announced next Wednesday.
Among the names that have received the most support so far are “Chih-ming, Chun-chiao, [志明,春嬌]” “one China, one Taiwan” and “Wang-yao, Wang-shih [罔腰,罔市].”
The pandas, which arrived at the Taipei Zoo on Tuesday, are called Tuan-tuan (團團) and Yuan-yuan (圓圓), which together mean “reunion,” a term that implies the unification of Taiwan and China.
The lawmakers, including Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) and Chen Chi-yu (陳啟昱), said the pandas are a “political tool” of the Chinese Communist Party and asked the public to keep the meaning of the animals’ presence in Taiwan in mind.
“The DPP isn’t trying to make things difficult for these two pandas. But when people are visiting the pandas, they should not be ignorant of the hidden meaning behind them,” Kuan said.
Kuan said the use of pandas by China as a tool to build relations with other countries began in the late 1950s when a pair of pandas was given to the Soviet Union.
In addition to giving five pandas to North Korea in the 1960s, Beijing presented the rare animals to the US, Japan, France, the UK, Germany, Mexico and Spain between 1972 and 1978, Kuan said.
The exporting of pandas had been dormant for more than 20 years when China gave a pair to Hong Kong in 1999 to celebrate the second anniversary of the handover of the former British colony to China.
Another pair of pandas was presented to Hong Kong last year to mark the 10th anniversary of the handover, Kuan said.
The two pandas were offered to Taiwan in 2005 after a visit to China by then-KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰).
The Council of Agriculture, then under the DPP administration, however, rejected the offer on the grounds that Taiwan did not have adequate conditions to care for the animals.
The council approved the Taipei Zoo’s application to house the animals in August, three months after the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Now, Kuan said, the acceptance of the gift by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration was a prelude to Taiwan’s unification with China and the end of the Republic of China.