|Taiwanese show the flag on Regent St in London|
For a few days it proudly flew, nudged between Syria and Tajikistan, amid rows of national flags festooning London’s Regent Street as the city prepares for the Olympics. Suddenly, for reasons unknown, but easily guessed at, it was pulled down, leaving a sad gap in the otherwise festive display of global fraternity.
Granted, the Republic of China (ROC) flag is for many people not a national flag but rather a symbol of a regime that imposed itself on Taiwan after World War II, one that, furthermore, unleashed decades of repression on its people. And yet, despite all the hardships, it now stands as the most readily recognizable symbol of nationhood for all Taiwanese.
Yes, it was first woven as the symbol of a political party in China; and yes, it officially stands for the ROC, but over the years, through the long process of democratization and national consolidation, both the ROC and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have become part of the fabric that makes Taiwan what it is today. For people outside Asia who know little about this region’s convoluted history, nothing more immediately distinguishes Taiwan from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) than the ROC flag.
The reaction among Taiwanese worldwide to the removal of the flag on Regent Street testifies to the strength of that symbol.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.