Censored: Taiwan’s national flag

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

Whilst the flying of the wrong flag at North Korea’s first Olympic women’s football match in Glasgow had all the comic elements of the BBC’s excellent drama Twenty Twelve, and was just an honest mistake, the saga of the Taiwanese flag in London’s Regent Street is altogether more serious and depressing.
Taiwan’s flag went up in Regent Street – along with those of the 205 other nations competing in the London Olympics – on 21 July.  The flags were not part of an official Olympic display, but a worthwhile and colourful initiative by the Regent Street Association, celebrating the diversity of the countries taking part.
By the 24th, Taiwan’s flag had disappeared.  The Chinese embassy had complained to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who in turn contacted the Regent Street Association.  Now in its place is the flag of the entirely invented entity “Chinese Taipei”, a name that was adopted in 1981 in order to let Taiwan compete in the Olympic Games.  This is the flag behind which the Taiwanese athletes will enter the Olympic stadium tonight.
The treatment of Taiwan and its 23 million people by the international community is a disgrace.  It is a democratic country where governments change through the ballot box and where human rights are respected.  It is also an immensely important trading partner for the UK: they send 83,000 tourists and 16,000 students here.
Hardly anyone comes out of the Regent Street flag debacle with credit.  Certainly not the Chinese embassy, whose hostility to Taiwan’s identity is implacable, nor the Foreign Office, which should not have intervened, nor the Regent Street Association which should not have given in.
Only Dr Lyushun Shen, Taiwan’s ambassador in the UK, emerges with dignity.  Who can disagree with him when he says “In a democratic country and in a larger sense, we believe this kind of issue should be regulated by freedom of expression without undue intervention from a third party”?

25 comments for “Censored: Taiwan’s national flag

  1. ellen
    27/07/2012 at 8:37 am

    Thank you for noticing this incident. As a Taiwanese, as a country that always been treated unfair for political reason, this was not a result that surprised us. It was a cheerful moment when we see our national flag on the regent street last week – we never see this happen. I personally was moved because – thank god, this is why I like UK so much and this is why UK is different from other countries. I was so looking forward to go to Regents Street this week. Yet when I see the flag down, just a chuckle, we knew what was going on behind all these. I don’t think anyone blames UK foreign affair – it is tricky. Understandable decision. Without reading news we know its China again.
    I appreciate someone aware of this not just Taiwanese. It is a bit sad that you never see your national flag as well as anthem in the international occasion. I guess only those, 23 million people, who lived in that little island, can understand.

    • Stefan
      28/07/2012 at 2:09 pm

      Ellen’s way of reasoning and the way this comes in support of Lord Faulkner is what should matter more than anything else–the feelings of frustration when the country you live in doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The point is that this is solely due to the pressure from China and the most saddening fact of them all is that the Chinese leaders actually are made to believe that Western leaders really think Taiwan is a part of China. They don’t, they just want to please Beijing, and that is something that should be made clear for Beijing in order to stop kidding themselves into believing that the treatment of Taiwan has universal support. It doesn’t, but China is simply too (economically and politically) powerful and important. Democratic countries’ leaders (and even more their business communities) are selling out Taiwan. It’s time for the rest of us to point this out to the Chinese government, which unfortunately to a large extent also happens to be the opinion of a quite nationalistic populace. But China’s claims to Taiwan and many other nationalistic aspects are taught in school and over and over again reinstated in the media, so ordinary citizens are not to be blamed, just pitied.
      Good luck in the Olympics, Taiwan (oops, Chinese Taipei)!
      /Stefan, Sweden

  2. Chris K
    27/07/2012 at 12:40 pm

    I completely agree. Disgusting.

    But the rot set in with when we handed the nasty communist regime the UN seat in 1971.

    Perhaps if we’d recognised the RoC as the legitimate successor the RoC (1949), we might have kept Hong Kong as well.

    • 29/07/2012 at 2:08 pm

      That certainly wasn’t the west’s finest hour (as one could guess easily from the identity of the protagonists on our side: Nixon and Kissinger), but the rot set in much earlier, when we supported the nationalist dictatorship’s take over of Taiwan after the end of of the Pacific War, doing little or nothing to prevent the brutal repression of the Taiwanese population (Google ‘White Terror Taiwan’ for the details).

      When it was ruled by a nasty right-wing dictator (and then his son) the west loved Taiwan. Now that it’s a vibrant independent democracy we (at least, our governments) don’t want to know.

    • jiwen
      30/07/2012 at 6:01 am

      From a Taiwanese perspective it’s a bit more complicated than that. The ROC was a brutal dictatorship until the late ‘80s under Chiang Kai-Shek and his son, who treated Taiwanese (as opposed to the Chinese who came to Taiwan in 1949) like 2nd class citizens. In the ‘90s it changed into a democracy, and in the process the ROC became synonymous with Taiwan in the eyes of most Taiwanese. Before that (and to some extent, even now) many of us thought of the ROC as a foreign government. It certainly wasn’t worth supporting, which is one reason US President Jimmy Carter stopped doing so.

      It was Chiang Kai-Shek’s son who made the decision to use “Chinese Taipei” after the IOC told him that Taiwan couldn’t pretend to represent all of China, in 1980. They would’ve let the country use “Taiwan”, and the PRC wasn’t strong enough to oppose that, but the upper echelon of the KMT considered and still considers the ROC to be all of China (including Mongolia, amusingly), so they couldn’t deal with the name “Taiwan” and settled on “Chinese Taipei”.

      By the time Taiwan was democratic and more Taiwanese, the PRC had enough clout to block any changes.

  3. 27/07/2012 at 3:22 pm

    We can take some comfort from the fact that the “Chinese Taipei” flag now flies in between the flags of Syria and Tajikistan, giving away the correct name of the country in its alphabetical position.

    The fact that the flag of Syria flies next to it brings up another point. Syria and various countries with questionable regimes are allowed to compete in the games, the arguments being that politics should be kept out of sport, the Olympic spirit, etc. Why do these principles apply when it comes to allowing countries headed by murderous governments to compete, but do not apply to the question of whether a perfectly civilised and democratic country can use its preferred name and flag?

    • maude elwes
      27/07/2012 at 8:21 pm

      We are indebted to China. Cannot possibly upset them. They are making progress after all.

      I wonder if they still have killing rooms for baby girls? The ones parents take their new born girls to because they are allowed only one child, and that must be a boy. So, the girl has to die to make way for him. She never existed you see.

      This is the country we are courting.


      • 28/07/2012 at 3:57 pm

        I am a Christian and was openly a Christian in the PRC which is not without risk. Homicide is bad and I think so and China is a land with more forms of open and widespread homicide than most countries can imagine. Many women are killed and men for many reasons and babies too.

        However, from a feminist point of view and other points of view as well China deserves credit for educating millions of women, for having free movement of women business people, for allowing a literate female culture in much of the country over centuries and increasing that today.

        The PRC admits 90,000 political protests in some years and yet claims that it is a very safe country and is happy to let the West see it as monolithic and oppressive. It can be oppressive but there are many actors and forces in China and all kinds of killing from duels, brigands, Islamic terrorists, priates, infaniticide and other homicides are almost normal. In addition suicide is extremely common– extremely. Many Chinese believe this high price in blood is a horrible price but one they pay as part of the real cost of growing a nation and society.

        Contrast this to the realities in the world’s slums, in Afghanistan, in many Muslim rural communities, in struggling tribal groups, in labor camps and brothels and many other places in many countries where you have huge numbers of unreported and unstructured killings for which there is almost no accounting. China’s Taoist religion is still strong and unlike Taoism in the West is mostly about trying to extract some good from evil. Usually homicide is the evil.

        China is different. I am not ashamed of having enjoyed my time there. But it is a more sad and sober place than its propaganda these days would have us think. Killing baby girls is horrible… I agree.

  4. 27/07/2012 at 6:43 pm

    Lord Faulkner,
    It is a complicated issue, when I was in China in 2004-2005 I tried to come up with what I thought constituted the long[standing and openly discussed opinion of party members, farming leaders, professionals, key students and business people in the PRC at that time. To a degree often misunderstood and minimized in the West this opinion is very important in Chinese politics. While I am out of touch to some degree it seems that the policy is more or less what has driven developments in the intervening years. That opinion today will drive coming events to some degree. This was my summation of that opinion:

    1. There have always been rebellious and separatist provinces in Chinese history and we must take a long and tolerant view Taiwanese independence.
    2. Official, cultural, capital and tourist ties with Taiwan must be allowed to increasse over time but not in a way which diminishes direct militarization of the Strait itself. “Cross-Strait” relations are a safe priority.
    3. We must make Taiwainese prosperity and security possible and foster limited popular goodwill.
    4. We must preserve enough infiltrated support of of KMT tradtion and populations of that type to prevent effective independence and enough independence inflitration to securea weak Chinese Nationalist Republican agenda, prevent effective mainland political operations and in both cases we must guard against Japanese initiatives while utilizing attracted Japanese capital.
    5. We must maximize opportunities to steal military intelligence through Taiwan that would not otherwise be available.

    The policy is supported in some of the Taiwanese sectors to some degree. It is a complicated relationship and I would imagine Ellen must know people of several opinions about many aspects of this relationship. The great achievement in the relationship is that they so very seldom kill eachother despite the fact that in the view of many of the Chinese described this is an ongoing civil war which has never in any way ended…

    • 29/07/2012 at 2:26 pm

      At the end this post you raise the question of opinion in Taiwan about relations with China. There are frequent opinion polls on this issue in Taiwan. If three options are given — status quo (i.e. de facto independence), full independence, unification with China — then the status quo generally comes top followed by full independence.

      In a recent poll with only two options — independence or merger with China — the result was independence 69%; unification 16%. Among young people support for independence was 80% (to 12% for unification).

      (See http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2012/03/tvbs-public-of-one-mind-on-one-country.html )

      This is linked to a rise in Taiwan, particularly among young people, in viewing themselves as Taiwanese (rather than Chinese, or both Taiwanese and Chinese). This seems to be so also for people whose parents or grandparents came to Taiwan from China in the nationalist retreat, as well as among those whose families were in Taiwan before that.

      Assuming we care about democracy we have to respect this.

      • 31/07/2012 at 3:52 pm


        From a technical point of view I believe the correct designation for governance by opinion poll is only allowed to be nonsense in this blog. Opinion polls predict the outcome of a formal vote but when they substitute for formal votes they are ochlocratic tyrannies. However, that does not mean your point is false, in fact I appreciate you providing the the valid information which is in fact worthy of respect.

        Also from a technical point of view one has to first determine where the limits of a polity are and thus its constituency before declaring a majority. Thirdly, because this is true in a civil democracy minority rights must have real and significant protections.

        In Britain under recent decdes of more than two major parties ruling and contending in a FPTP sysytem designed for two parties popular majorities are almost insignificant What Brits call majorities are pluralities. Louisiana where I live uses majorities for most popular electoral matters. But by that standard used in Britain all three options must be considered in determining Taiwan’s opinions.

        Beyond all that ninetten percent is a significant minority. China is looking a to nturies and modern pseudo democracy at an instant of opinion. However, I do not say all of this becuase I am committed to unification under the current regime or even to unification at all. Nor do I decry the research and communication you have done both are useful. None of what you have said refutes my comment really…

    • Michal Thim
      30/07/2012 at 7:41 am

      “We must preserve enough infiltrated support of of KMT tradtion”

      Taiwan is much more than that, really! And KMT tradition in particular is not so popular in Taiwan, given party’s conduct during the longest-standing martial law period in the human’s history, nor it is something that should solely represent people in Taiwan.

      What I am trying to say is to think beyond the conventional understanding of Taiwan as a result of Chinese civil war, people clearly consider themselves to be different polity, different culture, different nation that China. Only less than 2% of people in Taiwan consider themselves as Chinese only.

      The complexity of the situation should not prevent us to do what is right! And that is to support the incredible democracy that has developed here despite the odds.

      • 30/07/2012 at 9:08 pm

        Michael Thim,
        I am willing to discuss this at greater length than this short reply. However the fictional “we” is neither me nor the Taiwanese people. The “we” expressing this opinion are the composite commenters I speoke with and observed in the PRC — I am gicing a summary of PRC opinion…

  5. MilesJSD
    28/07/2012 at 3:20 am

    The world now needs a new generic model of Individual & Collective Human Development;

    which should be egalitarianly subdivided such that both individuals, and groups thereof, can “belong” to Global Humanity without being confined to constitutionally-subjecting National and Political Dominances.

    • 28/07/2012 at 12:46 pm

      I am not entirely agreeing with you but it does put me in mind of the Peers and other who sought to restore the Olypic Peacethis year.

      1. Russia, the United States, Iran and other countries may be said to be involved in the Syrian Civil War but are not beligerents.
      2. Pakistan, the United States, Iran and other countries may be said to be involved in a war in Afghaniztan but only the USA is a formal enough presence to be a beligerent and one cannot have only one beligerent.
      3. States are involved with numerous acts of violence around the world and Sudan, South Sudan and other such anomalous places contibute to borderline events between wars and civil wars.
      4. The United Nations represents numerous countries in vivil wars like that in the Congo but is not ever an official beligerent.

      I for one feel there is no simple answer as to whether or not the Olympic countries are at war with one another — perhaps not. Yet there is surely no sense of a deep and sacred global truce…

      • maude elwes
        02/08/2012 at 2:27 pm


        Here is some news I am sure you already have. As it is aired in the US.


        And the outcome of these antics.


        As an observer, it appears to me the US want to have a manopoly on the sale of arms. No matter the arms they sell may end up with nations who are utterly unstable.

        I mean do you really consider Pakistan a nation who is a good choice for nuclear weapons? Or, Israel? Although you may feel these countries, as examples, are being administered ‘presently’ by those who are in bed with you makes it okay. However, what if they have a Spring, akin to the Arab Spring. Where does that leave all of us?

        You never know who you are selling arms to. The face presented today is not the face of ownership tomorrow.

        To take that even a step further. Look at the UK. The changes taking place here since the election of Thatcher have been dramatic. Should such a dramatic shift take place of a similar ilk, and, instead of the friends Thatcher and Blair you get say, a dissenter, to American military policy. What then?

        I pose this question because I hear US is broadcasting their government is arming its police to incarcerate or kill American citizens in groups who demonstrate against their government and according to this video, will kill them as they do those in foreign countries they regard as enemies to democracy?


        There has been massive change here regarding the arming of our policemen as well. And killings of citizens has become rampant. 333 people killed by police here since 1998.


        All this has taken place since Blair and New Labour was elected in 1997. His swing to military union with the US not having been divulged to the electorate at any time. And this was a country where police did not carry arms. The local bobby used to ride a bicycle and pop in to visit…. Once upon a time!

        Our kind of copper.


        • 03/08/2012 at 4:36 pm


          I believe Taiwan has a right to a military. I believe the US has a right to support it and profit from arm sales and that Taiwan is a good customer. I also believe China has the right to struggle to contain Taiwanese military growth. I hope for the best in US- Chinese relations. As far as my country’s politics. I am somewhat well connected compared ot the average person, somewhat influential as well — but not in the top echelon of either ranking. Those are not the same measure as “ins” and “outs”. I have said that before on this blog. I am an extreme “out”, my political postions are expressed in a series of model constitutions I have put online and in some groups. Meanwhile I vote and so forth butthe policies do not often reflect my wishes…

          • maude elwes
            06/08/2012 at 3:53 pm

            So, Frank, you believe in the proliferation of arms to any country that wants to buy them, as long as it’s the US selling them. Except, of course, to Iran.

            What does Iran have in its make up the Pakistan doesn’t?

            Nothing appears to have changed much does it. Except of course, the Uk is now equally as mad.


            Taiwan has very little real disposable money and their best use of it is not to purchase arms. They have people who could do with a better standard of living, just as we in the UK have. Exploitation excites me sometimes as well, but, I come down to earth when reality knocks at the door.

          • 06/08/2012 at 6:19 pm

            I said that the US had the right and not only that it alone had the right to sell such arms. I did not say it should or should not. The US has vital interests in South Korea, Japan and the Philippines and a long time committment to Taiwan. Thus it is not possible to favor leaving Taiwan defenssless. I believe we are bribing our way through your Commonwealth Partner into Afghanistan. Pakistan which is the darling and embodiemtn of the British political classes is not the issue here. Iran is more or less an enemy and thus we are not keen in most places here to arm them.

            I do not hesitate to criticize US policy foreign and domestic and I am so far from being in the pocket of the Obama administration that there is no sting at all in such an implied accusation…

  6. Iain Murray
    29/07/2012 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

  7. MilesJSD
    30/07/2012 at 4:01 am

    I follow you, FWS III;

    what i can not understand is why the Method III of Cooperative Needs & Hows Recognition and Cooperative Problem Solving is not used as the standard first stage in Planning, and as the first resort when someone’s needs are being disrupted, threatened, denied, or plain not-recognised –

    – the essence of Method III is to catch the Need and Problem whilst we are all still on reasonably friendly speaking-terms
    before ‘matters’ slide too far down the slippery-slope into Crisis. Conflict, Starvation-Sanctions, and Hot-War.

    Surely it is not poo-pooed merely because it takes much longer than the Expertise-Led one-hearing Arbitration, or swiftly directed Executive Compromise
    e.g. by ‘cutting-the-orange-in-half’*
    * ‘compromise’ : when one party needs only the skin as zest for a cookery recipe, whilst the other party needs only the flesh for a meal
    (given time to be clear about their needs, and the hows thereto, they could each have been 100% satisfied).

  8. Michal Thim
    30/07/2012 at 7:44 am

    Dear Lord Faulkner,
    Thank you very much for speaking up for Taiwan! I am not Taiwanese but Taiwan is very dear to my heart and I can tell that Taiwanese people are very grateful for your statement and so am I!

    • Jade
      30/07/2012 at 8:07 pm

      Dear Mr. Thim,
      Thank you for expressing the gratitude of at least 90% of Taiwanese people truthfully. When the world is kow-towing to China in everyway, it is really heartwarming to have you and Lord Faulkner speak up for Taiwan.

  9. Mr Russell
    01/08/2012 at 5:53 pm

    Lord Faulkner of Worcester is quite right to speak up for Taiwan.

    I am British and I feel a great sense of shame that a foreign country’s flag has been removed from an otherwise wonderful public display of national flags in the middle of London. I suspect bullying by Beijing, if so then all China has done is to cause themselves to loose face.

    I also feel shocked that the Regent Street Association bowed to pressure from an irrelevant third party. What the RSA should have done was to consult the people of Taiwan – the obvious contact in London is Dr Lyushun Shen, Taiwan’s ambassador in the UK.

    Why does China continue to show such disrespect for other people? Why do they still pretend that Taiwan is a rebel state? Why don’t they realise that Taiwan has already been independent since 1949 (if not 1911 as the ROC) and yet still brainwash their own people and bully other countries on this issue? Why can’t they accept that China is already united? When the Chinese civil war started in 1927 Taiwan wasn’t even part of China – it was part of Japan! (since at least 1895). Why do they still thirst for more territory on the pretence of a superficial non-threat from America?

    Taipei stopped claiming to be the government of all of China 20 years ago. Yet Beijing is still stuck in the post-war days. It is time for Beijing to grow up and move on.

    Also there is absolutely nothing wrong with countries being allowed to recognise both China and Taiwan. There is no need for other countries to choose allegiances. Such pathetic outdated rivalry should cease immediately.

    There is no need for any other country to interfere – let the people of Taiwan choose their own flag and country name!

    Yours sincerely.

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