Australian council paints over kids’ Taiwanese flag artwork to adhere to ‘one China policy’
Ahead of Australia’s biggest beef expo, the Taiwanese flag emblazoned fish were blued out
A couple of high-schoolers in Australia recently ran afoul of the “one China” policy.
In order to celebrate “Beef Australia,” a giant national beef expo held once every three years in the city of Rockhampton in Central Queensland, students from local schools were asked last month to paint designs on six bull statues that were to be erected along the riverbank at the center of the town for visitors to admire.
One of these bulls would stand on a plaque that read: “This bull celebrates the cultural diversity of the Rockhampton community.” It was painted with a fish design and many of the fishes were then decorated with national flags — including the flags of Italy, Japan, and Brazil.
Encouraged to paint “their culture,” a pair of Taiwan-born students decided to decorate two of these fish with the Taiwanese flag.
However, when the statue reappeared in time for the festival, the two fish that had been emblazoned with the Taiwanese flag had been painted over.
The city council’s commercial arm, Advance Rockhampton, took responsibility for erasing the flags, explaining that it did not want to upset China — one of the principal buyers of Australian beef — with Chinese representatives certain to show up to the expo in Australia’s beef capital.
“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,” Tony Cullen, the general manager of the group, told Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC).
“We highly value the relationship with all of our international trading partners and the opportunities they present for our region,” Cullen continued.
The council’s decision has shocked many Australians, as well as internet users around the world, while also saddening the two students and infuriating their parents.
“It’s a free country in Australia, so they feel a bit shocked their culture cannot be showed in public,” their mother, Amy Chen, told ABC.
“There was a Brazilian flag and a Japanese flag but their flag — a Taiwanese flag — was covered up,” added stepfather Lawrence Downing. “It’s like a slap in the face — what message are they [the council] sending to them?
“You can’t tell me a group of Chinese delegates are going to be upset by two Taiwanese flags in the shape of a barramundi fish,” he continued.
The matter has also caught the attention of Taiwan’s government, which is currently trying to obtain further information about the incident. The Taiwan representative office in Brisbane has said that those involved will be “cherish the common values of freedom, democracy and respect for cultural diversity and not to allow the intervention of political opinions in cultural activities.”
Along with Australian school art projects, Taiwan is currently being squeezed by China in a number of different areas. Recently, the Civil Aviation Administration of China sent a notice to 36 international airlines demanding that remove any reference on their websites or in other promotional materials that suggest that Taiwan is a country separate from China.
Over the weekend, the White House responded to this request by calling it “Orwellian nonsense,” while Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned China against trying to apply political pressure on private companies.
Earlier this year, a Taiwanese waitress in Sydney said that she was fired from her job at a Chinese restaurant for telling her boss that Taiwan is not part of China.