MOFA replaces national symbol

The China Post staff

Lawmakers and some officials yesterday expressed concerns over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MOFA) move to replace the national symbol printed on official documents with the national flag and plum flower, Taiwan’s national flower. Any printed document, such as invitation cards, letters, menus requiring the official emblem now must carry the national flag instead of the original blue-sky-white-sun symbol which was nearly identical to the Kuomintang’s party symbol.

However the symbol on passport covers will remain the same. The national flower, the plum blossom, will also only be used in countries that do not have official ties with the island to avoid any diplomatic concerns. Overseas representative offices were informed of the decision through a confidential letter from the ministry two weeks ago, according to a report from the local media, explaining that the decision was meant to “reflect the public’s voice and eliminate confusions.” The report also indicated that the measure was proposed by the MOFA’s Research and Planning Board but that the decision was finalized without consulting the related department of protocol.

Lo Chih-cheng, chairman of the Research and Planning Board, rebuked the report calling the information contradictory to the fact. The replacement of the ROC’s symbol was a legitimate act determined through legal procedures, he said. Meanwhile, Henry Chen, MOFA spokesman, confirmed the implementation of the new policy and also denied that the decision was made solely by Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao as reported by the media. Chen also said: “We believed the change was appropriate.” But the KMT did not agree.

“The move was inappropriate and unnecessary,” said Jason Hu, former foreign minister and also incumbent KMT spokesman.

He added that the original blue-sky-white-sun national symbol was used in accordance with the law passed in 1954. The use of the national flag would only generate problems when, in reality, there had not been any controversy over the original national symbol so far, he said. Other issues concerning the society’s interests should outweigh replacing the national symbol. “The new symbol will not upgrade the nation’s status but only constrain us in the international community.” Officials at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States praised the removal of the old symbol, saying overseas Chinese often confused the symbol with that of the KMT’s and that the decision would reduce misunderstandings.

KMT lawmaker Lee Shang-ren supported the use of the national flag as the official symbol because it is more symbolic than the previous one. In contrast, the national flower is not representative enough and should be barred from use in any international occasion, he added. Diane Lee, People First Party’s spokeswoman, said the new measure only downgraded the island’s status while other countries never questioned the use of the blue-sky-white-sun symbol. Enough confusion over the nation’s identity had been raised after the Democratic Progressive Party took power, Lee said, and the new government should not be creating more chaos in foreign matters.

Meanwhile, representatives of Rotary associations in Taiwan yesterday launched a protest over the change in the ROC’s title with Rotary International, upon the arrival of its president, Frank J. Devlyn.