“Since when [has] our official title … been changed from the ‘Republic of China’ to ‘Taiwan’?” Ma said in a statement released by his office on Monday.
Last month, organisers of the Double Tenth celebrations revealed this year’s logo featuring two Chinese characters for the number 10 along with a slogan in Chinese: “Democratic Taiwan, resilience and sustainability.”
But it was the phrase “2023 Taiwan National Day”, emblazoned underneath in English with no mention of the Republic of China, that drew fire from Ma, a former KMT chairman, and the island’s Beijing-friendly camp.
“The Republic of China has disappeared,” Ma said, adding that Tsai’s government had “deliberately changed” the island’s name and turned the “ROC national day” into “Taiwan national day”.
“This is unequivocally a path towards ‘Taiwan independence,’” Ma said.
Beijing considers Taiwan its territory to be brought back under its control, by force if necessary. Beijing insists there is only one China and views the use of the official name Taiwan, rather than the Republic of China, as a provocation.
Most countries, including the United States, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state but are opposed to a unilateral change of the cross-strait status quo by force.
Ma said it was “deeply saddening” for Tsai to use the term “Taiwan National Day” for the final celebration of the holiday during her presidency and accused her of trying to “sneak in Taiwan independence”, which could harm the island and its people.
The DPP government started using the controversial English slogan in 2021 despite sharp criticism by the KMT, now the main opposition party, and protests from Beijing.
Ma said he asked the organisers to stop using the term last year, but “unfortunately, they turned a deaf ear to my plea, and this year, they have persisted in their approach”.
Ma, who has attended the celebration events in the past two years, said if he continued to do so, it would be “tantamount to my endorsement [of] this circuitous and covert ‘Taiwan independence’ path.”
Taiwanese Premier Chen Chien-jen, a DPP member, noted Ma had attended in recent years when the controversial phrase had also been used.
“I don’t understand why he suddenly refused to attend it,” he said.
Ma said while he had never missed the event in 40-plus years, this time he could not “sit idly by while the DPP government jeopardises Taiwan’s security and harms the ROC”.
“With a heavy heart, I announce my refusal to attend the October 10 National Day celebration this year,” Ma said.
He also urged supporters to use their votes in the January presidential election to “take this government that violates the ROC constitution and disregards the safety of all Taiwan’s people off the shelf”.
He also asked voters to take note of the separatist leanings of his top opponent Taiwanese Vice-President William Lai Ching-te, the DPP presidential front-runner, who previously called himself a “pragmatic Taiwan independence worker”.
Lai said in an interview with Bloomberg in August that he had no plans to declare a formal split with the mainland, nor did he have a road map to do so because “Taiwan is already a sovereign, independent country”.
Lai’s campaign office said that “right from the beginning, Vice-President Lai has done all he can to safeguard ‘the ROC Taiwan’ and that Hou was the one to “destroy the ROC” by recognising Beijing’s one-China principle.
Since 2016, when Tsai became president and refused to accept the one-China principle, Beijing has ramped up pressure on the island by suspending talks, staging live-fire drills and poaching Taipei’s allies.