Why we painted over students' Taiwan flag: Council explain
BARRAMUNDI-shaped Taiwanese flags are the obscure source of public outrage after Rockhampton Regional Council painted over the symbols on a students' artwork.
Taiwan-born siblings, Amber Jun Xie and lu Ting Xie, added their country's flag on a bull as part of a North Rockhampton High School class initiative to "paint their culture" for the joint council and Beef Australia initiative.
It was one of six statues decorated by local school children for a "what does Rockhampton region mean to you" theme to be displayed on the riverbank during this week's event.
But when the bull arrived at its destination, the NRHS students discovered their artwork had been covered up in a deliberate council act.
The family shared their outrage with the ABC, with the pair's mother Amy Chen telling the news outlet she was "very sad and disappointed" by the decision.
Public outcry has even reached Sydney, with letter writer David Butler of Penrith penning his "regret" in a letter to the editor.
"Having visited Taiwan and gotten to know its friendly and kind-hearted people, I am sure this will make news in Taiwan and be another kick in the stomach for a country that already has the boot of China firmly pressed on its neck," he said in part.
After centuries of political tumult, the Republic of China (Taiwan) currently operates as an sovereign, democratic nation with residents proud to refer to it as a "free country".
It has its own constitution, parliament and currency, however the People's Republic of China (mainland China) still claims Taiwan as its own territory.
A Rockhampton Regional Council spokesman said painting over the flags were in line with the Australian Government's approach of adhering to the "one-China policy".
"Council highly values the relationship with all of our international trading partners and the opportunities they present for our region," the spokesman said.
"A decision was made 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, which means while it does not recognise Taiwan as a country, we continue to maintain unofficial contact with Taiwan promoting economic, trade and cultural interests.
"The school was contacted prior to the changes being made. As this is a joint program between council and schools around the region, Beef Australia was not involved in this decision."
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is currently in power, led by president Tsai Ing-wen.
Taiwan's political history is riddled with foreign rule, including a 50-year period of Japanese rule until their unconditional surrender in 1945.
In the years to follow, the late leader of the current opposition party, Kuomintang, Chiang Kai-shek enforced martial law from 1949.
It was relaxed following his death in 1975, before his son, President Chiant Ching-kuo lifted martial law on July 14, 1987.