TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Out of fear of offending Beijing, a city council in Australia has painted over children's artwork depicting the Taiwan flag on the statue of a bull before a major international beef event, reported Australia's ABC.
In anticipation of Beef Australia, a major cattle industry event in the country slated for this week, school children across Central Queensland's Rockhampton were asked to paint flags of various countries in the shape of barramundi fish in six statues of bulls.
Among the many flags featured, two Taiwanese-born siblings surnamed Xie painted the fish with colors of the Taiwan flag on both sides of the bull and wrote in white Chinese characters 臺灣 (Taiwan).
Fish depicting Taiwan flag before being censored. (Photo from Chen Syuan-si Facebook)
The bulls were collected by council officers on April 30 and the bulls were placed along Rockhampton's Riverbank to celebrate the big beef show. However a few days ago, it was discovered that the two paintings of the Taiwan flag had been painted a solid blue, while all other flags remained unmolested.
Fish after it was painted blue. (Photo from Chen Syuan-si Facebook)
Kowtowing to Beijing
When questioned over the fishy doctoring of the artwork, the General Manager of the Advance Rockhampton department of the council Tony Cullen came clean:
"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."
The Australian government does not display the flag of Taiwan, but it does not give any guidance on the state or local level on showing the flag or mentioning Taiwan's status as a country.
China has become one of the largest markets for Australian beef in the world and Beijing has been on a tear recently sending letters to corporations and governmental organizations worldwide to remove any reference to Taiwan as an independent country.
"Slap to the face"
In response to the council's decision to censor the flags, the student's Taiwanese mother, Amy Chen, said that her children were "very sad and disappointed."
Chen then expressed her disappointment with the council to ABC, saying, "It's a free country in Australia, so they feel a bit shocked their culture cannot be showed in public. They can't do that — it's wrong to do that."
The children's stepfather, Lawrence Downing, also expressed his anger to ABC saying that the Brazilian and Japanese flags were left unscathed, but the flags his children painted were the ones singled out. "It's like a slap in the face — what message are they sending to them," said Downing.
Beijing's bullying of airlines
Australian airline in January bowed to pressure from Beijing to change the designation of Taiwan on their website. On Jan.16, the company released a statement; “Due to an oversight, some Chinese territories were incorrectly listed as countries on parts of our website. We are correcting this error.”
However, Qantas' moves seem to have not appeased the communist regime in Beijing as the air carrier was one of 36 that received a letter in late April that apparently went into more detail about additional changes it wants the Australian air carrier to make. A Qantas spokesman acknowledged receiving the latest letter, but declined to elaborate on its contents at this time.
In response, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, "The terms that private companies choose to list destinations are a matter for them," according to the Sydney Morning Herald. She then added that "There should be no pressure from governments, whether ours or others, that threatens the ordinary operations of business."