Taipei, Taiwan has been trying to obtain further information about a recent incident in which its flag was painted over in a children's art project in Australia, due to pressure from China, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday.
Taiwan's representative office in Brisbane is working to contact the relevant Australian entities and express the view that political interference should not be allowed in cultural activities, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (???) said.
The representative office is also seeking further details on the matter from Australian authorities and the organizers of the children's art project, which was part of a major international expo called Beef Australia, according to Lee.
He said the authorities and those involved will be asked to cherish the common values of freedom, democracy and respect for cultural diversity and not to allow the intervention of political opinions in cultural activities.
The Chinese government and specific individuals have been going all out to suppress Taiwan's international space, using strategies such as asking international airlines not refer to Taiwan as a country, and have now ratcheted up their efforts by resorting to political interference in a cultural event, Lee said.
"Such actions will only serve to anger the Taiwan people and will not contribute to the positive development of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait," he said.
The ministry and its overseas representative offices will continue to safeguard Taiwan's national sovereignty and the rights of its people abroad, while actively calling on the international community to respect those rights, Lee said.
The issue sprang from an event in Rockhampton, Queensland, where students from various schools were asked by the regional council to paint six bull statues as part of the Beef Australia expo, according to Australia's national broadcaster ABC.
Taiwan-born siblings Amber Jun Xie and Iu Ting Xie painted their country's flag in the shape of a fish on one of the statues, the TV channel reported.
When the statue was erected however, it was noticed that the two Taiwanese flags on the front leg and the rear of the bull statue had been painted over, ABC said.
"Advance Rockhampton made a decision to change one bull statue on display in Quay Street in line with the Australian government's approach of adhering to the one-China policy," said Tony Cullen, general manager of that department in the regional council, according to ABC.
While the Australian government does not display Taiwanese flags, there is no federal directive to state or local governments about what they should do in such cases, according to the ABC report.
The students' mother Amy Chen said her children were "very sad and disappointed" by the council's decision to paint over their flags, ABC reported.
"It's like a slap in the face - what message are they (the council) sending to them?" Chen said. "You can't tell me a group of Chinese delegates are going to be upset by two Taiwanese flags in the shape of a barramundi fish."
China has long been pressuring the international community over Taiwan's status and displays of its flag.
Earlier this year, Australian airline Qantas was asked to remove references to Taiwan as a country on its website due to pressure from China.
In response, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned China against trying to exert pressure on private companies.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China, the state airline regulator, had also written to 36 international airlines, asking them not to refer to Taiwan as a country separate from China.
The White House reacted angrily to the directive, labeling the request as "Orwellian nonsense" and urging China "to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens".
In February, a Sydney waitress said she was fired by a Chinese restaurant for referring to herself as "Taiwanese".
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel