President Ma Ying-jeou met on the afternoon of November 5 with Andrew Festing, the former president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters who has been commissioned numerous times to paint Queen Elizabeth II. President Ma, on behalf of the government and people of the ROC, warmly welcomed Mr. and Mrs. Festing, and called for continued strengthening of cultural and other ties between Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
In remarks, the president stated that the ROC government on December 1 of this year will hold activities to mark the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration. He noted that Mr. Festing's father, Field Marshal Sir Francis Wogan Festing, fought in World War II alongside the ROC's Chinese Expeditionary Force in Burma. Consequently, this visit to Taiwan by Mr. Festing carries special historical significance, the president said.
President Ma further stated that in November 1943, then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Supreme Commander of the China Theater Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) met in Cairo and issued the Cairo Declaration, which demanded that Japan must return to the Republic of China all the territories it had stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Taiwan, and the Penghu Islands. Two years later, Japan lost the war and surrendered, and in the instrument of surrender accepted the conditions set forth in the Cairo Declaration. This shows that the Cairo Declaration not only set the ultimate agenda in the war, but also decided the future of Taiwan, the president said.
President Ma stated that Field Marshal Festing in 1944 and 1945 headed the British Army's 36th Infantry Division in Burma, and led infantry troops deep into the north of Burma where they fought together with the Chinese Expeditionary Force and American troops against the Japanese. The president noted that Field Marshal Festing was the highest ranking British military officer in that area at the time. In 1945, he said, Field Marshal Festing was dispatched to Hong Kong where he served as Commander of British Forces in Hong Kong. Subsequently, he was honored with the Order of Resplendent Banner by the ROC government in recognition of his outstanding contributions in military cooperation between the ROC and the United Kingdom, the president noted. President Ma remarked that the Festing family has deep ties to the ROC, and witnessed the bravery of ROC forces that battled the Japanese in Burma.
Bilateral cultural ties, the president stated, have seen considerable advances in recent years. President Ma pointed to August and September of this year as an example, saying that nearly 100 people from Taiwan, including members of the arts community and representatives of our local cultural and creative industry, visited the United Kingdom to take part in nine large cultural events. The president stated that his wife Chow Mei-ching (周美青) served as the honorary head of the Contemporary Legend Theatre when it performed at the Edinburgh International Festival, thus showing that Taiwan is an active supporter and participant in international cultural activities in Britain.
The president mentioned that when he took office in 2008 only 54 jurisdictions provided ROC nationals with landing visas or visa-free courtesies. Today, however, that number has risen to 134. The United Kingdom in 2009 took the lead in Europe by granting visa-free treatment to ROC nationals, which led other nations in the European Union and elsewhere to follow suit. The number of students from Taiwan heading to the United Kingdom to study has continued to increase, he said, noting that at present around 15,000 Taiwanese students are studying in Britain, making Britain the second most popular destination behind only the United States. In addition, the ROC government actively engages in cooperative relationships with the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, Oxford University, and the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, a British think tank, the president stated. The government here, he said, is also planning on establishing a Taiwan cultural center in Britain in order to promote bilateral ties.
The president also noted that Taiwan, just like many other nations, has a deep interest in the British royal family. He said that this past July upon learning that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to Prince George, he personally sent a message of congratulations to Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the government and people of the ROC.
President Ma remarked that Mr. Festing not only has been commissioned to paint Queen Elizabeth II, but also previously served as President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters for six years. To date, he has completed over 750 portraits, including many of Queen Elizabeth II, and the president pointed out that the portrait of the Queen used on the 78 pence stamp is one of Mr. Festing's works, which show the esteemed status of Mr. Festing in the British arts and cultural community. The president called for continued strengthening of cultural ties in order to further enhance the bilateral relationship.