LSE: 'No final decisions reached' on Taiwan map in school artwork

London School of Economics walks back previous statement bowing to Chinese pressure, now 'consulting with community'

'The World Turned Upside Down'

'The World Turned Upside Down' (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – After unwittingly involving itself in Taiwanese politics with the unveiling of an artwork installation on March 26, the London School of Economics (LSE) has stepped back from its original pronouncement that it would bow to Chinese pressure and change Taiwan's color to match that of China on the “World Turned Upside Down” artwork installation.

Following an online petition, an official letter from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, letters from UK lawmakers, and a public statement President Tsai Ing-wen, an LSE alumna, the university is now canvassing opinions before finalizing a decision on whether to alter the installation to appease the dictates of angry Chinese students.

According to an April 6 report from the Sunday Times in the UK, LSE has walked back from a statement by the school’s director, Minouche Shafik, who originally said LSE school would oblige demands of the Chinese students, to the dismay of Taiwanese students and observers across the world.

According to a statement from the school, “no final decision” has yet been made regarding possible amendments.

“The artwork currently does not reflect our understanding of the UN delineations that it was due to represent. We are consulting our community and considering amendments to the work. No final decisions have been reached.”

The artist who designed the art installation, Mark Wallinger, likely facing the haranguing of irate Chinese students, says that marking Taiwan as an independent country was an “error” on his part, and that he has an “open mind” on any possible changes.

However, in describing the work at the unveiling on March 26, Wallinger stated that “the UN is the authority as to the names and borders,” but his work represents “the world, as we know it from a different viewpoint; familiar, strange and subject to change.”

This has led some to speculate that Wallinger was being intentionally provocative in regards to Taiwan, as well as Tibet. The map marks Lhasa in Tibet as a national capital, which also irked many Chinese students, reports the Art Newspaper.

In response to the controversy, Taiwan Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, addressed a letter to LSE Director Minouche Shafik urging her to make decisions based on “what is true and what is right,” not by judging “who has more power.” “I thus urge you and your institution not to change the depiction of Taiwan on the sculpture,”said Wu.

On Friday, April 5, President Tsai Ing-wen weighed in on the debacle by emphasizing that Taiwan is already, and will always be a sovereign country. "We will never cease to exist," said the president.

CNA has reported that two UK lawmakers, Dennis Rogan and Nigel Evans, representing the British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group, have also sent letters urging the LSE, an independent educational institution in the UK, to refrain from from altering the artwork to conform to Chinese law.