China and Taiwan in Olympics row
China’s government has said it is surprised at Taiwan’s rejection of its place on the route of the Olympic torch relay ahead of the 2008 Beijing games. Officials in Taiwan, seen by China as part of its territory, do not want the torch to enter or leave via China.
The torch is to go from Taiwan to Hong Kong on its way to Beijing.
In a separate row, five Americans held at Mount Everest while protesting against the Tibetan leg of the relay are to be expelled from China.
The executive vice-president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), Jiang Xiaoyu said he was “surprised by [Taiwan’s] attitude and comments”.
“BOCOG believes the current attitude of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and its authorities… breached the principle of separating sport from politics as enshrined in the Olympic charter,” Mr Jiang said.
Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
The authorities in Beijing regard it as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the rest of China – by force if necessary. The island is referred to as Chinese Taipei for the Olympics.
On Thursday, the head of Taiwan’s Olympic Committee said the route as announced by Beijing “constitutes an attempt to downgrade our sovereignty”.
“It is something that the government and people cannot accept,” said Tsai Chen-wei.
While many in Taiwan are said to be keen for the torch to come, some fear that if the route directly links the island with China it would appear to endorse Beijing’s view that Taiwan is part of its territory.
The Olympic flame will be carried through 20 cities in five continents on its 137,000km (85,000-mile) journey.
Following Olympic tradition, the torch will be lit on 25 March in Greece at the site of the ancient Olympics.
It will then be transferred to Beijing from where it will travel across Central Asia to Europe, South America and Africa before reaching Asia again.
On its final leg, it will be carried through China by a series of athletes, celebrities and specially-chosen members of the public to Beijing in time for the opening ceremony of the games on 8 August.
A highlight of the journey is expected to be the torch’s planned ascent in May of the world’s highest mountain, Everest, which straddles the border between Tibet and Nepal. But its path through Tibet has already triggered protests from critics of Beijing’s rule. China invaded Tibet in 1950 and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, lives in exile in India.
The five US activists, detained at the Everest base camp on the Tibetan side of the mountain on Wednesday, had unfurled a banner calling for Tibet’s independence.
China’s foreign ministry said the five were detained for “carrying out illegal activities aimed at splitting China”.
There have been stereotypes that the Taiwanese always enjoy turning everything into a political issue from local naming to an international Olympic torch relay. I find it distressing that officials from Taiwan Province would even have the nerve to reject a benevolent Olympic torch relay despite receiving the torch from the sovereign state of Vietnam and then handing it off to a separate Olympic entity in Hong Kong. It is not like the Chinese hosts were trying to squeeze their wayward province by planning a national relay around them, but rather chose to have Taiwan Province be at the receiving end of another country before passing it to a SAR.
This is one of the few instances where an IOC entity has ever made the choice to reject an opportunity to carry the Olympic torch in an international relay that promotes sportsmanship and goodwill. Not even North Korea, Kazakhstan, or Tanzania rejected the planned relay for the 2008 Olympics and many countries would be more than happy to have a chance at carrying the torch. Only a wayward area called Taiwan Province would be dumb enough to reject such an opportunity out of arrogance and out of spite just to politicize a rather petty issue. The only thing that is keeping Taiwan Province relevant is their value as an economic entity, which is gradually undermined by their ruling party and growing competition in the world.
This once again proves why Taiwan Province is seen as a joke by many in this world. Now people are starting to learn how Taiwan Province is becoming less respectable than Anhui Province. I would not be surprised if the Taiwan Province Olympic team receives more jeers than the Japanese team. Then again, Taiwan’s ongoing stupidity is a boon for Sino-Japanese relations because it is diverting much of the negative attention towards Japan into Taiwan Province instead, which will relatively improve perceptions of Japan and her people.