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Chen calls on citizens to sing anthem proudly

Statement represents reversal of party's stance that song is KMT relic

Chen calls on citizens to sing anthem proudly

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) urged the public yesterday to sing the national anthem with pride, saying it was "a very serious problem" that many Taiwanese did not sing their national song.

The president, who had just returned from a nine-day visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica, observed on his trip that people of other countries sing their national anthems, even journalists while many in his delegation did not.

The president noted that he sang the national anthem six times in one day in Paraguay. "But in Taiwan, the public does not sing the national anthem, or does not sing it loudly, which is a very serious problem."

The president's call represented a reversal of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's position, which has been that the national anthem is a legacy of the past when the line between the former ruling Kuomintang and the nation was blurred.

Chen made his appeal in Sinjhuang, Taipei County during the opening ceremony of the eighth President's Cup, a competition in ball sports held for central government employees.

Chen said that the national anthem stands for a nation, and that singing it loudly will help forge a national consensus. If the public does not sing the national anthem, it will be harmful to the nation's competitive edge, he argued.
Objection to the first line
Some members of his delegation may not have joined in, however, because many object to the first line of the song's lyrics - "The Three Principles of the People is the cornerstone of our party" - paying tribute to a political party rather than the state.
The national anthem of the Republic of China was part of speech by the R.O.C.'s founding father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, to open the Whampoa Military Academy in 1924. The text was officially endorsed as the national anthem of the R.O.C. in 1943.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋), who also attended the ceremony with Chen, were seen singing the national anthem yesterday along with other attending dignitaries. According to local reports, however, not many Executive Yuan staffers or participating athletes joined in.

Identifying with Taiwan
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) remarked that the president made the comments because he was concerned about the national awareness of Taiwanese citizens. "The president means that the people of Taiwan should sing the national anthem to show they identify with their own land," she said.

DPP Information and Culture Department Director Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) affirmed the president's remarks, saying that the DPP has always respected the flag and the national anthem of the R.O.C., despite ideological differences with the KMT.
"If the people of Taiwan are united because of singing the same national anthem and showing allegiance to the same flag, the DPP will be pleased," Tsai said.

He asserted that a national anthem and flag are a country's most prominent icons and should not be regarded as symbols that trigger ideological differences.
Pro-independence groups, however, disavowed Chen's remarks, arguing that the national anthem paid tribute to the KMT, and that by encouraging Taiwanese to sing the national anthem proudly, the president was taking a step backward.

"We're not opposing to Taiwan having a national anthem, but the fact that it is using a song from the KMT is a mistake of the times," said Huang Chao-tang, chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence.

Opposition People First Party spokesman Hsieh Kung-ping (謝公秉) said he was surprised by Chen's remarks because "when the DPP gained control of the Taiwan government, the members of the party refused to sing the national anthem, and even tossed the flag onto the ground," he recalled.

Nonetheless, noted Hsieh, the president's encouragement for the public to sing the national anthem yesterday "was not a bad thing, because observing the national symbols was one of the responsibilities of the government."

"If the president sets the example to sing the national anthem proudly, then all Taiwanese citizens will do so," said KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday while presiding over a memorial ceremony in his role as Taipei mayor for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival on May 31.

However, Ma's comment was later criticized by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who dared the KMT chairman to sing the Taiwanese national anthem the next time he goes to Beijing, and "while he's at it, he might as well take along a flag of Taiwan and shout 'Long live the R.O.C.'"

"A lot of people say they love Taiwan and pay respect to the national anthem and the flag, but they all fall silent when they visit China," said Lu. She further indicated that one of these people was KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), who "was once Taiwan's vice president."

Lu, when asked to comment on Chen's remarks in the morning, said she speculated that the younger generation in Taiwan might be hesitant to sing to the national anthem in public because it was an aged anthem of a military academy and did not suit the tastes of the 21st century. She further suggested that the government could consider changing the anthem's lyrics.