‘Politically incorrect’ stamps bear witness to ROC history

Two sets of "politically incorrect" stamps are on display at the 2016 World Stamp Championship Exhibition in Taipei (PHILATAIPEI), a testament to the power struggles waged in the early years of the Republic of China.

One of them is a rare sheet of 48 stamps with a face value of 2 yuan, printed with the words "provisional neutrality" on them.

When Dr. Sun Yat-sen established the Provisional Government of the ROC in Nanjing in 1912, he asked the postal authorities to overprint Qing Dynasty stamps with the Chinese characters for "Republic of China" to represent the change of regime, Ho Huei-ching (???), president of China Stamp Society's Taiwan Chapter, told CNA on Tuesday.

However, a Frenchman named T. Piry, who was inspector general of the Directorate of General Posts in Beijing, which was still under the rule of the Qing Dynasty at the time, did not want to take sides between the Qing and ROC governments and so printed the words "provisional neutrality" on the stamps instead, Ho said.

Needless to say, Sun and Yuan Shikai, the first formal president of the ROC, were furious and immediately recalled the stamps, which were issued for only a few days, said Ho, a former National Taiwan University professor.

After the stamps were recalled, Piry reissued them, adding the words "Republic of China," but retaining the words "provisional neutrality."

Not only did the reissued stamps fail to appease Sun's government, "they now contained an even more egregious political error as they appeared to claim the ROC government was doomed to exist only temporarily," Ho said.

Sun ordered that the stamps be recalled and the words "provisional neutrality" removed.

One sheet of the reissued stamps, with a face value of 5 yuan, is on display at PHILATAIPEI, which will run until Wednesday at Taipei World Trade Center Exhibition Hall 1.

Given their short existence, the two sets of stamps are now extremely rare and valued at between NT$30 million (US$949,517) and NT$50 million, Ho said.

In 1943, while visiting the United States to address the U.S. House of Representatives, Madame Chiang Kai-shek presented a collection of these "politically incorrect" stamps as a gift to then U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was an avid stamp collector, Ho noted.

"Of course, President Roosevelt did not have those stamps in his collection and was thrilled to get them," he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel