Wed, Oct 13, 2010 - Page 3 News List

DPP legislators blast missing ‘National’ day

By Vincent Y. Chao, Flora Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporters

A banner at a celebration of Taiwan’s National Day in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sunday reads “In Celebration of the 99th Year of Double Tenth Day.” Opposition lawmakers said the word “National” was removed from the banner, allegedly at the request of Vietnamese authorities under pressure from China.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DPP LEGISLATOR KUAN BI-LING

How can a national day reception be complete with the word “national” missing?

This was a question opposition party lawmakers asked yesterday after local media reports saying the word was taken off a banner at a dinner party hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to celebrate the Republic of China’s (ROC) 99th anniversary in Vietnam.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) said the word was removed at the request of Vietnamese officials because of pressure from the Beijing government.

The annual event originally had a Chinese-language banner stating that the reception was being held “In Celebration of the 99th year of the Double Tenth National Day,” but this was later changed to “In Celebration of the 99th Year of Double Tenth Day,” the Liberty Times said.

Also missing from the reception on Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam, was the ROC flag, typically seen at other dinner receptions and cocktail parties held by Taiwan’s foreign trade offices around the world to mark the national day. There were also no references either to Taiwan or the ROC in a giant billboard.

Responding to accusations by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers that the incident represented another international setback for Taiwan, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) acknowledged that the problem “could be” due to Chinese pressure.

“There is a [tricky] relationship between Vietnam and mainland China and we cannot rule out this ‘China factor,’” he said on the legislative floor.

“If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait still cannot give each other official recognition, they should at least not deny each other’s existence,” Wu said.

“If China denies the existence of the ROC, this will not be positive for cross-strait prospects because this is what the ‘1992 consensus’ is about — one China, different interpretations,” Wu said.

Wu, however, rejected the DPP legislators’ call to punish the nation’s representative to Vietnam, saying the new envoy, Huang Chih-peng (黃志鵬), should not be held responsible because the Hanoi office had handled the decorations in a similar fashion since 2007.

Wu expressed optimism that Huang, who took office as Taiwan’s top representative to Vietnam on Oct. 6, would deal with the issue.

Unconvinced, DPP legislators said it was the latest example of how Chinese pressure on Taiwan to drop its national symbols internationally had not receded, despite warming economic relations.

“This is concrete evidence that our foreign affairs policies have failed,” DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said. “[Taiwan and China] are using recently signed [economic] agreements to create a false image of warming cross-strait ties. The reality is Taiwan’s international space is getting smaller and smaller.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) told the legislature that the Vietnamese government had interfered with the proceedings of an annual cocktail party held by Taiwan’s representative office in Hanoi since 2007.

The Vietnamese government “has exercised a great deal of pressure” on the event, banning the office from using Taiwan’s official name — the ROC — and terms like “national day” at the party, Yang said, adding that Vietnamese authorities had even threatened to block guests from entering the party venue if the office refused to meet its requests.

At a separate setting yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman James Chang (章計平) said that despite the pressure, the ministry kept the words “National Celebration” on invitation cards this year, while Huang also mentioned the “ROC” six times in his speech at the reception.

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