TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Nearly one week after a piece of artwork in the city of Rockhampton in Central Queensland, Australia made headlines after the city council painted over students’ artwork depicting the characters for Taiwan (台灣) over the country's flag, the mayor published her statement on the bull in the local paper.
Mayor Margaret Strelow’s statement published in the Morning Bulletin, a local newspaper, revealed that the order for the characters "台灣" to be painted over, actually came directly from the Chinese Vice Consul of Brisbane.
It was originally assumed that the council acted out of concern that Beijing and Chinese officials might be offended, if the bull artwork which included the Taiwan flag were permitted to be put on public display as part of an international Beef Week event.
However, it turns out that Chinese officials were much more involved and proactive in the series of events than was first assumed. The Vice Consul of the Chinese Embassy in Brisbane, Zhou Li (周莉), reportedly made direct contact with a city council officer and made the demand that the artwork be removed or otherwise dealt with.
Vice Consul of the Chinese Embassy in Brisbane, Zhou Li (Image from Chinese media)
Intriguingly, the mayor says that “Council officers contacted the school to explain that there was a problem. When the school couldn't offer a solution, council staff proceeded to paint over the flag and words.”
Reading this statement, it would appear the school was respectful of their students' artwork, and did not consider the small fish shaped patch of space on the bull to be important enough to remove or otherwise alter.
The mayor does not mention which city councilor was specifically assigned the task of removing the characters by the Chinese government official, but it is not hard to imagine a lone city official sneaking down to the Rockhampton Riverbank with a paintbrush in hand, and a secret stash of blue paint, set to ruin the artistic creation of two young high school students on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
It sounds ludicrous, but as the mayor explains, they “were in a highly charged political minefield.”
The mayor also calls the response of the Taiwanese community “predictable” and claims she has been receiving “hate mail for some days now.”
The mayor closes her piece by emphatically stating that Taiwan is an important trading partner for Australian beef, and that she herself was not consulted by the city councilors and was not personally involved in what happened.
The mayor finishes with a somewhat sardonic comment on the incident, which was essentially a mole-hill turned mountain, thanks to the undue harassment and haranguing of Chinese officials.
“Our goal was to ensure that Beef Week was a success without a diplomatic incident. Mission accomplished. Now to manage the fall out!”
Read the Mayor's full statement at the Morning Bulletin.