In a break with precedent, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) did not give a New Year’s Day speech yesterday morning, instead marking the occasion by attending a flag-raising ceremony and singing the national anthem along with members of the military.
Tsai and Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) left the Presidential Office Building at 6:16am to join the hundreds of people already gathered in front to watch the New Year’s Day flag-raising ceremony, a tradition that has now been observed by four presidents.
As the flag was raised, Tsai and Chen sang the national anthem along with the crowd and 45 soldiers from various units of the armed forces who recently received commendations for their distinguished performances over the past year.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
The ceremony was followed by a performance by a group of drummers made up of the Ministry of National Defense Symphony Orchestra and an indie band called Fire Ex, best known for writing a song for the Sunflower movement in 2014.
In past years, following the ceremony, top officials have gathered indoors to hear a speech by the president.
However, this year Tsai set out key areas of policy focus and expressed her hopes for the new year at a news conference on New Year’s Eve.
Tsai was celebrating her first New Year’s Day as president.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) attended the ceremony, saying he was there in an informal capacity.
He sang the national anthem and saluted the flag in a spot far from where Tsai and other officials, including Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), were standing.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) accepted an invitation to attend the event, but also stood far way from Tsai.
Hung, along with KMT vice chairmen Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), Chen Chen-hsiang (陳鎮湘) and Lin Jung-tzer (林政則), later attended a separate flag-raising event held by the KMT in front of its party headquarters in Taipei.
In a speech, Hung said that she “refuses to stand with a government that disregards the law and the Constitution, simply borrowing the shell of a government to take office.”
Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times
The sight of a Republic of China flag being raised moves her deeply, she said, adding that the nation has seen both great hardships and prosperity in its 106 years of existence.
“What pains me is that the nation is facing this kind of situation. We apologize to this flag, truly apologize to this flag that has created the Republic of China,” Hung said.
Noting that the word “hardship” was chosen by the public as the word to represent last year, Hung said that the KMT also experienced the hardship of two successive failures.
“We felt distraught and at a loss for morale. We did not know how to face the situation,” Hung said, alluding to the KMT’s failure in the presidential election and its loss of majority in the Legislative Yuan.
Hung said that the KMT was working “for the public” and that it would work toward peaceful relations with China, adding that the party would fight against the government’s proposed lifting of a ban on imports of food products from five Japanese prefectures and would strictly supervise Tsai’s administration.
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