Some people say no to drugs, some people say no to gambling and some people say no, politely, to China's bullying of Taiwan in the international arena.
It happened on a Sunday night in late July in Chiayi during the Asian Men's Volleyball Challenge Cup that featured four countries in friendly competition -- Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China.
Before the three-day tournament got under way, local government officials had diplomatically asked townspeople and out-of-town spectators to refrain from displaying the ROC flag inside the local gymnasium where the games were to be played. It was suggested that it would be mighty sporting of everyone not to display the ROC flag so as not to upset the visiting Chinese team.
The local government issued a press release to the media urging people to "keep the national flag in their minds," instead of taking it to the games. The apparent rationale behind the city's press release was the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) agreement in 1981 that Taiwan's sports teams would use the name "Chinese Taipei," as well as a "Chinese Taipei Olympic flag" during all international events -- instead of the national flag and anthem -- in return for being allowed to participate in international sporting events.
When the tournament finally got underway, a most unexpected thing happened. Of course, some spectators brought the ROC flag with them and displayed it from the bleachers. Some other fans painted small ROC flags on their faces and proudly displayed them inside the gym. But what really caught the public's attention was a large green and red hand-made banner that was hung from the bleachers above the gym floor that read (in English only) "Taiwan! Go! -- China! No!"
Unfurled on the last night of the three-day tournament when "Chinese Taipei" was playing China, the very visible -- and striking -- banner was greeted with applause by spectators in the stands and with not one peep of protest from the visiting Chinese volleyball team or its coaches.
The banner, remarkable for both its bright colors and courageous wording, was seen on national TV news broadcasts that evening and was featured as a photograph in the next day's Chinese-language national newspapers here.
When asked what the words on the banner were meant to express, a local man, who described himself as "a citizen of Chiayi," told me: "We wanted to encourage Taiwanese people to stand up for Taiwan at this international sporting event, so the words `Taiwan! Go!' were meant as an affirmation of Taiwan as a sovereign, dignified nation. The `China! No!' part of the banner was not meant to slight or criticize the Chinese athletes who had been invited to Chiayi, but rather to say `no' loud and clear, and in plain English, to China's missiles and to China's bullying of Taiwan in the international arena."
"But we were glad to see the Chinese players in Chiayi, and we warmly welcomed them here. Spectators, during the Taiwan match with China, even applauded the Chinese players when they made skillful plays," he said.
During the three-day tournament, another citizen in Chiayi encountered some Chinese volleyball players at a neighborhood 7-Eleven store and warmly welcomed them to Taiwan, saying: "We are glad to have your as guests in our country, and we just want you to know that while we applaud your sportsmanship in playing here, we must tell you that we, as Taiwanese, do not like the way your government treats Taiwan."