The Taiwan Folk Music Ensemble (TFME), a group composed of the Taipei Modern Dance Group as well as students and teachers from the greater Taipei area, earlier this week accused China of attempting to pressure it into performing under the Chinese national flag.
Ensemble leader Liu Yu-chia (劉育嘉) said that for an upcoming month-long series of performances in Europe, his group had been asked by the International Council of Organizations for Folklore Festivals and Folk Art (CIOFF) to attend under the five-star red flag.
Taiwan is the only Asian country that received an invitation to perform at this year’s cultural festival in Portugal and Spain, and the group plans to depart on Friday, Liu said.
“However, Taiwan is not China. We are performing abroad so that people can get to know Taiwan, so it’s impossible for us to agree to use the Chinese flag,” he said.
Taiwan became a member of the CIOFF in 1994, with Taipei-based Lanyang Dancers being the contact between Taiwanese performance groups and the council.
A secretary at Lanyang Dancers surnamed Wu said this was the first time that a group had been asked to use the Chinese flag, adding that: “The CIOFF should be very clear that we are Taiwan.”
Wu said that following past tradition, Taiwan would use the Chinese Taipei flag, as it does in Olympics games.
Liu said his group’s performance in Italy last year received high praise for its traditional music and dance performances. The national name “Taiwan,” as well as the Republic of China (ROC) flag, was printed on performance hall billboards and the stage, giving the country international attention.
TFME art director Yeh Jui-chi (葉瑞琦) said that earlier this year, the ROC flag and the national name “Taiwan” appeared on the event’s Web site next to the performance group’s name.
“Our group members were so excited about it that they printed the page out as keepsakes,” Yeh said.
However, the CIOFF phoned them recently and said that as Taiwan was not a country, it could not use a national flag, and could only use the Chinese flag or the CIOFF flag instead, Liu said.
Liu speculated pressure from Beijing was behind the change of policy.
As his group would definitely not accept using the Chinese flag, it opted for the CIOFF flag in the end, Liu said.
“But of course our national name and flag were withdrawn from CIOFF’s Web site as well,” he said.
Dance teacher Chiu Ying-jie (邱瀅潔) said that her purpose of bringing students abroad — in addition to bringing attention to Taiwan — is to also foster a national identification in her students.
“I will still bring along a Taiwanese flag, so that the world can get to know Taiwan more whenever there is a chance,” she said.