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Taiwan flag removed for Chinese leadership visit

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     8/27/15 11:44am

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 included university presidents and chancellors from China and the United States, as well as China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren and Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping. 

“Rice’s two Taiwan light pole banners are not flags, but they include an image of the Taiwanese flag,” Almond said. “Our banners could have been viewed as an affront by Vice Premier Liu, the third-ranking official in the Chinese government. The university’s decision to temporarily remove the ... banners was consistent with U.S. policy, and it was also a matter of diplomatic protocol for a visit by the highest-ranking government official from China to come to Rice.”

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.

“The banners were replaced right after the visit,” Almond said. “Rice welcomes and values our students and faculty members from Taiwan. That is why we included the Taiwan banners as part of the international display in the first place.”

Tim Chang (McMurtry ’15), the former president of the Rice Taiwanese Association, said he believes Rice should state its reasons for the removal and be prepared to respond to questions.

“I cannot say whether  the Rice University officials were proper in the removal of the ROC flag,” Chang said. “From a stance to improve tolerance and a chance to possibly establish meaningful conversations, I think the Rice University officials should not have removed the flag.”

This article was originally published July 14, 2015 and has since received new quotes.

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