A furious Taiwan yesterday threatened to cancel a long-planned exhibition of the island’s treasures in Japan after Tokyo organisers dropped the word “national” from the National Palace Museum’s name in publicity materials.
Taipei interpreted the move as a refusal to recognise Taiwan’s claimed sovereignty and an adherence to Beijing’s “one China” policy, which declares Taiwan as Chinese territory, subject to eventual reunification.
“President Ma Ying-jeou has been greatly concerned over the case … and demanded that if the Japanese side fails to react positively, all such exhibition activities in Japan must be scrapped,” Ma said in a statement.
First lady Christine Chow Mei-ching would also call off her plan to attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition, the statement said.
Chow was originally scheduled to lead a delegation to Japan on Sunday for the opening ceremony of the exhibition next Monday.
The show will have 231 valuable art objects on display from June to November at the Tokyo National Museum and the Kyushu National Museum.
It would mark the first time Taiwan’s National Palace Museum has ever loaned its valuable collection, including its so-called “crown jewels”, the Jadeite Cabbage with Insects and the Meat-Shaped Stone, for exhibitions elsewhere in Asia.
The event’s chief organiser, the Tokyo National Museum, had agreed to use the full title of the Taipei museum in the publicity – but neglected to add the word “national” in its promotion materials.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it set a deadline of 11pm tomorrow for the correction to be made.
Taiwan and the mainland were bitter rivals since the end of a civil war in 1949. There relations have improved only after Ma became president in 2008 and adopted a policy to engage Beijing.
The Nationalists were reported to have shipped more than 650,000 precious artefacts, originally housed by the National Palace Museum in Beijing, to Taiwan shortly before they were defeated by the Communists.
In 1965, the Nationalist government had the palace museum “relocated” to Taipei, and it was only until after 2008 that the two palace museums began exchanges and cooperation.
But up to now, the Taiwan museum has declined to loan its treasures for exhibitions on the mainland on the grounds that Beijing has not enacted any law guaranteeing their safe return.
Taiwan’s National Palace Museum since the 1990s has loaned its artefacts to the United States, France, Germany and Austria, all of which used the word “national” in its name.