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Taiwan May Ban The Public Display of the Chinese Flag

Taiwan may ban the public display of the Five-star Red Flag of the People's Republic of China  (PRC).

In recent months a number of Taiwanese organizations such as the Taiwan Society (台灣社),  the Taiwan Society North (台灣北社), and the Taiwan Constitutional Society (台灣憲法協會), have called on the Taiwanese government to outlaw the public display of the PRC flag on grounds of national security.

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China views Taiwan as part of its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to achieve "reunification." Beijing has urged the Taiwanese government to acknowledge the so-called "1992 consensus," yet Taipei has refused to yield to pressure from the Communist regime.

In October 2017 a petition to ban the public display of the Chinese flag garnered over 7,000 signatures, surpassing the 5,000 signature threshold that requires Taiwan's Ministry of Justice to issue a response. The petition requested that the Criminal Code be amended to ban the Chinese national flag in order to prevent activities aimed at promoting secession or inciting aggression.

The Ministry of Justice rejected the petition, saying that it would infringe on freedom of speech, which is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. But Taiwan's Central Election Commission (CEC) is examining the viability of a referendum to ban the Chinese flag.

At a hearing held in Taiwan's Legislative Yuan on July 5, CEC chairman Ch'en Ying-ch'ien (陳英鈐) said that the Commission would announce its decision within 30 days. He stated that the Commission was aware of the Ministry of Justice's rejection of the petition, but that it wanted to listen to different opinions from all sides and examine similar legislation in other countries before coming to a conclusion.

At a July 5 press conference Ch'iu Ch'ui-cheng (邱垂正), a spokesperson for the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's agency that handles unofficial relations with China, said that Beijing has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan, and that acts of violence committed in the name of the Chinese flag are harmful to national security and social order. He added that MAC respects the outcome of referendums held according to the law. 

Acts of violence and intimidation have been committed by pro-China groups in Taiwan, some of which have ties to the island's triads. Chang An-lo, the leader of the Party for the Promotion of Chinese Unification (PPCU), is a gangster and the former head of the notorious Bamboo Gang, a powerful Taiwanese triad. Last May the Taiwanese authorities arrested more than 300 gangsters who are allegedly linked to the PPCU. 

Different states in the world handle free speech issues differently. In the United States, the First Amendment protects most forms of expression, even those one may deem vile or potentially dangerous. "Just as the First Amendment protects the right to display Nazi flags or Communist flags, or to burn American flags, so it protects the right to display the Islamic State’s flag, repulsive as the organization it represents is," wrote Eugene Volokh in The Washington Post.

Germany, by contrast, outlaws certain forms of expression linked to unconstitutional organizations. Section 86a of the German Criminal Code stipulates that whoever disseminates or displays in public symbols - flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and greetings - of an unconstitutional organization may be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine. The use of unconstitutional symbols is only permitted for scientific or educational purposes.

The origins of Section 86 date back to the Right of Assembly Act of 1953, which banned the public display of symbols of Nazi organizations. Between 1960 and 1994 the Criminal Code was amended 4 times in order to extend the scope of the ban to all organizations deemed unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court.


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