Taipei govt downplays Retrocession Day

By Lawrence Chung, The Straits Times, 26 October 2000

In previous years, the Kuomintang authorities celebrated the event in grand style, but Taipei’s new regime has opted to play down the occasion

TAIPEI—Taiwan yesterday marked the 55th anniversary of Taiwan Retrocession Day—the return of the island to the Chinese fold from Japanese colonisation—in a quiet way.

The event was downplayed by the five-month-old Chen Shui-bian government, which had decided to drop all the grand-style festivities previously organised by the old Kuomintang authorities.

Analysts said the quiet celebration was expected as the very idea of Taiwan being taken back by China had long been rejected by President Chen’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The sea of flags usually hung along boulevards in front of the Presidential Office and other government buildings was missing.

Parties and concerts attended by celebrities, movie stars and singers were absent. The 10-minute presidential message that used to be broadcast by local television also vanished in the air.

President Chen made a speech in a small-scale celebration in Nantou, central Taiwan, but there was no mention of the history of the island’s return to the Chinese fold.

People went to work as usual as the day was not a public holiday. Most were not even aware that it was Taiwan Retrocession Day. For those who remembered the event, they assumed that it was a holiday.

I thought it was a holiday, said a Taipei taxi driver.

When told it was not, he then said there should not be the flying of the island’s flags everywhere. He was not aware that, unlike previously, the flags were not flying.

An office clerk said she could still remember vividly the sea of flags flying everywhere in Taiwan all through October, when the former government hosted a month-long celebration for several major events, including the Double 10 celebration on Oct 10, the Taiwan Retrocession Day on Oct 25 and the birthday anniversary of the late President Chiang Kai-shek on Oct 31.

Professor Shao Tzung-hai of National Chengchi University said: It’s natural for the new government to play down the event as the DPP has maintained that Taiwan had become detached from China ever since the then-Manchu government ceded the island to Japan in 1895.

To protest the downplaying of the event, the Chinese Reunification Alliance organised a march in Taipei and asked the public to remember the history of Japan’s return of the island to China in 1945.