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China fumes over ROC flag at Twin Oaks as the world watches

China fumes over ROC flag at Twin Oaks as the world watches

International media are giving exposure to Taiwan and its raising of the ROC flag in a quiet ceremony in Washington, D.C., exposure that might not have occurred had China refrained from raising the issue with US officials.

The ROC flag flew for the first time in 36 years on New Year’s Day over the estate at Twin Oaks in Washington that serves as the private residence of the de facto representative of Taipei to the US. It had remained unfurled ever since the US broke diplomatic relations with the ROC and switched recognition to the PRC government in Beijing.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, denounced the ceremony soon afterward in a press conference and counseled the US government to prevent similar events from re-occurring. Hua noted that China is firmly opposed to such demonstrations and had lodged “solemn representations with the US” over the matter. Hua urged Washington to abide by its one-China policy and said the US should handle the Taiwan question “cautiously and properly.”

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the US government was unaware that the ceremony would take place. "We did not know about the January 1 flag-raising at Twin Oaks in advance,” she said. “The ceremony is not consistent with US policy. We remain fully committed to the U.S. one-China policy based on the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act [of 1979]." She added that "no US government personnel attended the event in any capacity."

China’s response to the flag-raising ceremony has been labeled an ‘overreaction’ by experts on Taiwan such as Asian Studies professor William Sharp of Hawaii-Pacific University. "China is overly sensitive about this type of issue. Any issue that touches on sovereignty, China tends to overreact, in my view," said Sharp. “For the most part, the US press more or less overlooks Taiwan. It’s overclouded by China. This is just giving Taiwan more visibility, which it seems China doesn’t really want," he added.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK carried a report on China’s objections to the Twin Oaks ceremony under the headline, “China angrily denounces raising of Taiwanese flag in Washington.” Its story noted that China’s Foreign Ministry had complained to US authorities and asked them to respect the US’ one-China policy.

Voice of America, the official external broadcast institution of the US government, included statements by Psaki claiming ignorance on the part of the US. Psaki said the flag-raising was not in accordance with US policy but emphasized that Washington had not been notified of the event and no US officials were present.

News services AP, AFP and Reuters all carried reports on the anger expressed by the Chinese government. Various stories also touched on reaction to the event by media in Taiwan.

In Taiwan, one English-language newspaper quoted a report saying that “the flag was raised during a ceremony at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) attended by more than 100 people, including Taiwan’s top envoy, Shen Lyu-shun, who said the ceremony was made possible by the U.S. government.” The newspaper also claimed the US government was notified in advance and gave its approval, provided the ceremony remained low-profile and was not televised.

That account contradicts statements made by Shen on his return to Taiwan from the US this week. Shen said Wednesday said that Taiwan did not let US officials know about the flag-raising ceremony in advance, indicating that by leaving the US in the dark it would give Washington deniability about the controversial matter with China.

Shen noted in an appearance at the Legislative Yuan that Taiwan deliberately did not inform Washington of its intentions to show the flag. "We especially did not let them (the US) know. It was a goodwill gesture," Shen said. "If China protests, you (US officials) can say you didn't know."

Updated : 2021-09-18 21:06 GMT+08:00