LSE ignores Chinese cries, adds asterisk next to Taiwan on globe

London School of Economics adds asterisk next to Taiwan on artwork, ignoring Chinese bleats

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New asterisk placed next to Taiwan.

New asterisk placed next to Taiwan. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After more than three months of suspense over whether the London School of Economics would cave in on Chinese student demands that it change the color of Taiwan to match that of China on a large sculpture of a globe, the school has instead added an asterisk next to Taiwan.

Instead of changing the color of Taiwan on an inverted globe to match that of Communist China as requested by nationalistic Chinese students, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) alma mater has apparently consulted with the artist, who opted to go with an asterisk instead. The school then placed a sign below the globe which directly addressed the issue by saying, "There are many disputed borders and the artist has indicated some of these with an asterisk."

The school told CNA that the artist has responded to the controversy by adding an asterisk and erected a sign, while the country name for Taiwan and its color has not been changed. In response, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) today (July 10), said that the school's decision not only respects the spirit of the original work of the artist, but also highlights the reality of the current situation in Taiwan, which MOFA deeply affirms.


Old version of map. (CNA photo)

The ministry said that over the past few months, British parliamentarians, scholars, experts, and social opinion leaders have continued to appeal to the school to maintain the original work through different means.

The full text of the sign reads as follows:

"LSE is a place where people with different perspectives engage in respectful debate about major issues for the world.

The World Turned Upside Down is a work of art by Mark Wallinger. It is his representation of the world in 2019.

The designated borders, colours, and place names do not imply endorsement by LSE concerning the legal status of any territory or borders. There are many disputed borders and the artist has indicated some of these with an asterisk."

On March 26, LSE unveiled a large outdoor sculpture of a political globe by Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger titled "The World Turned Upside Down." The concept of the massive sculpture, which is 4 meters in diameter, is to invert the map of the world to give a perspective of the earth from the Southern Hemisphere.


New version including asterisk. (CNA photo)

Chinese students on the campus of LSE soon noticed that Taiwan was labeled "REP. CHINA (Taiwan)" and was colored in pink, while China was labeled "CHINA (People's Republic) and was colored yellow. In addition, the Chinese students noticed that Lhasa, Tibet was colored red, apparently to indicate that it is the capital city of a country, and there are differences along the border with India that they did not agree with.

Chinese students then lodged a protest with LSE for the use of separate colors for Taiwan and China, as well as the highlighting of Lhasa and demarcation of the border with India. The school then held a meeting over the matter on April 4 and decided to change the color of Taiwan to yellow, to match that of China, reported CNA.

In response, a group of Taiwanese students at LSE issued a joint statement which said, "As a sovereign and independent country, the Republic of China (Taiwan) has a free and democratic political system and abides by the separation of powers and the rule of law. We have our own diplomatic corps, military, and domestic political system, and the Chinese government has no right to interfere in this matter."


The sculpture in its entirety. (CNA photo)

On April 5, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) sent an open letter to LSE President Dame Minouche Shafik calling on the school not to yield to China's political pressure and bullying. He underscored the reputation Taiwan enjoys as a “beacon of hope for the people of China, who are still living under autocratic and ruthless communist rule.”

According to an April 6 report from the Sunday Times in the UK, LSE 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. In response, London-based NGO Formosa Salon launched an online petition criticizing the decision and called on the school to allow the color to stay as is, which quickly gained over 10,000 signatures.

On July 4, the Twitter account Decolonising LSE posted an image of the new asterisk next to Taiwan and asked LSE for an explanation. LSE's official Twitter account responded by saying, "Following the unveiling earlier this year, the artist has made some changes and clarifications to his work. The asterisks are linked to an explanatory plaque which will shortly be put in place next to the sculpture."


The new sign. (CNA photo)