Questions on why a Republic of China (ROC) flag that was hung along with the flags of other countries in central London was removed remained shrouded in mystery yesterday, as the organizer said it would replace it with a Chinese Taipei Olympic flag, but declined to say why.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said the organizer, the Regent Street Association, on Tuesday responded to a letter from the Taipei Representative Office in the UK expressing concern over the matter.
In its short reply, the association said it felt “sorry” and that the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag would be hung up the next day, Hsia said. It did not say why the ROC flag was taken down.
Representative to the UK Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) was quoted by the Central News Agency as saying he was “not satisfied” with the result and that it was “barely acceptable.”
In Taipei, Hsia avoided a question on whether the ministry found the answer acceptable by saying the representative office was still communicating with the association “in hopes it can hang the ROC national flag back in its original place.”
The ROC flag was originally among an array of 206 flags of nations competing in the Olympics, a display stretching more than 3km down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus before continuing south down Regent Street, including Jermyn Street and Conduit Street, to celebrate the Olympic Games.
The national flags were positioned in alphabetical order, with six flags in a line. The ROC flag was hung with the flags of Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Thailand, before it was removed on Tuesday, leaving the slot vacant.
Shen sent a letter to the association to register the nation’s “strong concern” over the removal, and to convey “our view that the nomenclature regarding Taiwan’s participation in the Olympics shall not be applied to the display of the flags in the street,” Hsia said.
Due to political opposition from China to Taiwan’s participation in the Olympics, a protocol signed in 1981 between the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) mandates that Taiwan compete under the name “Chinese Taipei” and the ROC’s national flag and national anthem cannot be used at competition venues.
The protocol does not ban the use of ROC flags in venues not used for the Games during the Olympics period, Hsia said.
Shen also said in the letter that in a democracy, a matter like this shall fall “within the scope of freedom of speech” and “shall not be subject to interference by a third party,” according to Hsia.
The association might still opt to follow the 1981 protocol in the end because “it has its own concerns,” Hsia said.
“In that case, we will fly our national flag on other occasions at appropriate times in London,” he said.
Several Taiwanese students and expats in London have protested against the incident by carrying ROC flags to the site.
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) spokesman Chen Yi-hsin (陳以信), who is taking up doctoral studies in London, posted a photo of him raising a national flag at the site on his Facebook page yesterday, saying it was “a protest” against the disappearance of the ROC flag in London.
“I was shocked when I learned that the flag had been removed, and it’s regrettable to see the spot where our national flag was hanging four days ago is empty now,” he said.