26 July 2012
Taiwan's top representative to the UK is demanding an explanation after the national flag was removed from an Olympics-themed display in Regent Street.
The organisers took down the banner of the Republic of China (ROC) – as the island is formally known – and replaced it with the flag of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee.
This has been used at Olympic Games and other sporting events since the early 1980s when the International Olympic Committee ruled Taiwan could not compete under the name of the ROC.
It initially refused and sued the body, but lost and was forced to adopt the moniker Chinese Taipei for Olympic purposes.
But today Shen Lyushun reacted angrily, saying the rule only applied to official Games venues.
Elsewhere, he explained, the national flag could be used freely and criticised the Regent Street Association for switching them in the display which features the banners of all 206 countries and territories taking part.
“It is true that we have to use a separate flag in the Olympic Games in accordance with the agreement we signed with the IOC in 1981,” he said.
“However, this agreement does not prevent us from using our national flag on any occasion outside the Games site.
“In a democratic country and in a larger sense, we believe this kind of issue should be regulated by the freedom of expression without undue intervention from a third party.
“We sincerely hope that our national flag will be returned to its original place soon.”
The decision to swap the flags also provoked a stir among the Taiwanese community in London.
Charles Chen, a former spokesman for the Kuomintang political party who is studying in the capital, said many people could be seen taking pictures of the national flag when it first went up.
He rushed back to Regent Street after hearing it had been taken down and said he felt “saddened, shocked and sorry” to see the gap before the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee went up.
The group, which is made up of business owners based in the street, reportedly declined to comment on whether the decision followed pressure from Chinese to remove the flag.
A spokesman for the association did not return calls from the Evening Standard.
Mr Lyushun said the replacement was “at least acceptable”, but has vowed to continue his efforts to find a place for the national flag, adding there had to be somewhere it could go in a city as big as London.