For 18 years without fail, veteran Chang Lao-wang (張老旺) has hosted the raising of the national flag on Double Ten National Day at the Liming Park on Tongqing Road in Taoyuan County’s Jhongli City (中壢), in an effort to promote love and respect for the national flag.
According to Chang, who is now 72 years old, his father had been a member of the Republic of China (ROC) Army that was stranded in northern Thailand, and had come to Taiwan in 1953.
The force, commonly known as the Abandoned Yunnan-Burmese Army (滇緬孤軍), had been forced south after Yunnan Province declared support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the final years of the Chinese Civil War from 1947 to 1949.
As a guerrilla army fighting against the People’s Liberation Army, the forces operated within the territory of the newly independent Burma. However, after Burma raised the issue of ROC forces within its borders at the UN, then-president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) was forced to order their evacuation.
Those who stayed — whether by choice or on secret orders from Chiang to stay and act as a base for future anti-communist endeavors by the ROC government — relocated to northern Thailand, where, after helping the Thai government suppress a communist threat they were granted residence rights by the Thai king.
Chang said that following his father’s death 18 years ago, he had been arranging his affairs when he came across the ROC national flag that his mother had woven to raise the morale of the forces, who were engaged in combat in Burma and Yunnan Province.
“The area was really devoid of resources, and I remember the flag was made by Mother just sewing up different pieces of blue, red and white cloth,” Chang said, adding that the forces were finally evacuated by the ROC government in 1953.
“There was still some dried blood on the flag, which reminded me of how precious it was to the stranded ROC Army soldiers,” Chang said, adding that he has hosted the flag-raising ceremony ever since.
Chang does not just raise one flag — he decorates the park and the nearby road with flags.
According to Chang, the ceremony’s biggest expenditure is the cost of buying the flags.
Although Chang’s bulk orders have lowered the price, the smaller flags still cost NT$12 per flag, while the larger flags cost NT$250. In total, the 20,000 flags used in the ceremony cost NT$300,000, Chang said, adding that to save on expenses he built the stage used in the ceremony himself.
Chang added that putting up the flags is very time consuming, and that with his small restaurant business, he only had four to five hours to hang up the flags on the road to the park.
However, Chang plans to hang the flags along the road all the way from his restaurant to the park — a distance of 2km — so that those who wish to attend the ceremony simply have to “follow the flags,” Chang said.
Chang said the amount of wire needed to hang up 20,000 flags was quite astonishing and he had to hire three strong men just to carry the materials.
The flag-raising ceremony is set to commence at 9am on Double Ten National Day tomorrow and it is estimated that 2,000 people could join, Chang said, adding that it was a huge increase from the 150 people who attended when he first held the ceremony.