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Rice removes Taiwan flag when hosting Chinese officials

Photo by Andrew Chang | The Rice Thresher

Before and after pictures of the same light pole outside the Rice Memorial Center taken by a Rice postdoctoral scholar and shared online.

By Anita Alem     7/14/15 7:57am

Rice recently removed the Taiwan banner from its campus when hosting a visit from Chinese officials, according to Senior Director of News & Media Relations BJ Almond. The visit from June 21-22 included university presidents and chancellors from China and the United States, as well as China’s Vice Premier Liu, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren, and Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping.

"Rice was honored to host a visit from a very high-ranking Chinese official and removed two Taiwan banners for a short time for protocol purposes," Senior Director of News & Media Relations BJ Almond said. "The banners were restored the day after the visit, as originally planned."

According to Almond, Rice's light poles are often adorned with themed banners that are rearranged, replaced and removed for a variety of reasons. The current banners feature the flags of countries represented by Rice students and faculty, including Taiwan.

"We are proud of our students from Taiwan, proud of our relationships with universities and other institutions there, and we have welcomed many people from Taiwan to our campus," Almond said.

Rice alumnus Tim Chang (McMurtry ‘15) is the former president of the Rice Taiwanese Association and said he believes Rice officials should state their reasons for the removal and be prepared to respond to questions.

"I really have little idea on how conservative or how easily angered Chinese officials would be by the Taiwanese flag, and I did not know what Rice University was trying to achieve from the round-table event, so from a diplomatic and political stance, I cannot say whether or not the Rice University officials were proper in the removal of the ROC flag,” Chang said. “However, from a stance to improve tolerance and a chance to possibly establish meaningful conversations, among students if not among government and university officials, I think the Rice University officials should not have removed the flag."

“International protocol decisions are made on a case-by-case basis,” Almond said. 

Vietnamese Student Association President Thu Nguyen said there had been a previous case in which a banner featuring Vietnam was taken down and replaced with another country's due to students’ requests.

“Two individuals, who happen to be a part of [VSA], had requested the removal of the red flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” Nguyen, a Wiess College junior, said. “The reason behind the request is that the Vietnamese community in Houston and the U.S. is officially represented by the yellow flag of the former Republic of South Vietnam. There are documents from the City of Houston, Texas and other states which declare this while asking all institutions here to respectfully remove the current red flag. Therefore, Rice simply honored a legal mandate, and responded to the request within one day.”

Errata: It was previously stated the Vietnamese banner was exchanged for a banner featuring the former flag of the Republic of South Vietnam. This is incorrect. It was replaced by a banner featuring Nicaragua.

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