Taiwan rejects 'domestic' Olympic torch route

Publication Date:05/04/2007       Section:Front Page
By Edwin Hsiao

Taiwan rejected April 26 China's offer to include its capital city Taipei in the Olympic torch relay route for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, saying that Beijing's proposed route attempted to undermine Taiwan's sovereign status.

Almost two hours after the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games unveiled the torch relay route in Beijing on the evening of April 26, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and the Cabinet-level National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports held a news conference in Taipei to explain Taiwan's position.

According to the BOCOG's plan, the Olympic torch would travel to Taipei from Vietnam, and continue to Hong Kong, Macau and other cities in China before arriving in the host city.

CTOC President Thomas W. Tsai said the arrangement that included Taiwan in China's domestic part of the relay had been decided by BOCOG President Liu Qi as long ago as March 2005 without regard to the CTOC proposal that the torch enter Taiwan from one third country and depart to another third country.

A March 16, 2005 report by Hong Kong's Mingpao quoted Liu as saying that "the domestic leg of the 2008 Olympic Torch relay should include Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau," according to an attachment to a news release by the CTOC April 26.

Tsai said China would publicize the transfer of the torch from Taiwan to Hong Kong as being from "Taipei, China" to "Hong Kong, China" which represented the PRC's attempt to engineer a route that included "Chinese Taipei"--Taiwan's official Olympic title--in China's domestic itinerary. This obviously undermined Taiwan's sovereign status, he said, adding, "We therefore take this opportunity to declare our rejection of the relay route arrangement to the International Olympic Committee and BOCOG."

Speaking at the same press conference, NCPFS Minister Yang Jong-her echoed Tsai's view and said that political machinations aimed at downgrading Taiwan's status in the IOC were evident in China's promotional activities for the Beijing Games.

In addition to designating the Taiwan leg of the Olympic torch relay as part of a "domestic route," thereby creating the impression that Taiwan was under China's jurisdiction, the Chinese authorities and the BOCOG had been using the Chinese-language version of "Taipei, China" to refer to Taiwan, Yang stated. This was in direct violation of the 1989 agreement between the CTOC and the Chinese Olympic Committee, which stipulated the Chinese translation of the name "Chinese Taipei" should be used.

"With regard to this matter, we have already lodged a protest and made our standpoint clear to the BOCOG and the IOC through official channels," Yang added.

Taiwan's Central News Agency reported April 27 that four legislators from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party stated in a joint news conference that they opposed China's attempt to belittle Taiwan using the torch relay route.

CNA also reported that Hsu Shao-ping, opposition Kuomintang legislative caucus whip, said the KMT caucus did not like to see Taiwan's sovereign status undermined, but added that the government should work to bring the torch relay to Taiwan, since this would motivate the Taiwanese people.

Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin, also of the Kuomintang, was quoted in an April 27 CNA report as saying he thought the torch's passage through Taiwan was a rare opportunity for Taiwan to get exposure on the international stage.

Write to Edwin Hsiao at edwinhsiao@mail.gio.gov.tw

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