Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The new Ma lacks backbone, too

Change is good when it is for the better. In the case of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) recent about-face on fans waving the national flag at international sport events, it is commendable that he will now stand up for the nation's dignity and demand respect for our spectators.

However, when a sudden change of heart like this comes without any acknowledgement of or apology for one's previous actions, there is reason for the public to be suspicious. Why should the nation put itself in the hands of Ma, whose interest in defending the nation is ever-vacillating?

After the recent uproar when fans were prevented from waving the national flag at the Straits Cup basketball tournament in Hualien in deference to the "sensitivities" of the visiting Chinese team, Ma issued a statement pledging to defend the right of fans to display the flag.

"This behavior should not be banned, because it is the public's right to express its passion for the nation," Ma's pledge read.

Such a statement should be expected from any Taiwanese. In fact, it may seem so obvious that the brouhaha Ma's pledge sparked might have him scratching his head wondering what all the fuss is about. The answer is simple. Voters are not as forgetful or as gullible as politicians often wish they are.

Many vividly remember when the Asian Women's Soccer Championship came to Taipei City's Zhongshan Soccer Stadium in 2001. Ma, then the city's mayor, urged soccer fans not to display national flags at the games.

Then there was the Asian Short-Track Speed Skating championship in December 2005, during which Taiwanese fans were again urged by the Taipei City Government -- with Ma its head -- not to bring national flags to the venue.

The 2005 Asian Judo Championship and the 2005 International Auto Gymkhana saw this happen again, with Ma's city government -- co-sponsor of the two events -- again asking fans not to bring national flags.

Ma at the time said that he was bound by the requirements set by the Chinese Taipei Soccer Association to prevent the public from carrying national flags at competitions. The association follows the Olympic formula, an agreement reached between the International Olympic Committee and Taiwan in 1981, stipulating that Taiwan must compete as "Chinese Taipei" in the Olympics and that its teams must use a flag invented for this purpose, the "Chinese Taipei Olympic flag," instead of the national flag.

Taiwanese teams have been forced to adopt the formula at many other international sporting competitions because of pressure from China.

But what Ma has blatantly ignored is that the 1981 agreement he claims to follow does not ban spectators from displaying the national flag.

Furthermore, it was during Ma's years as Taipei mayor that the Taipei City Government invented its own demeaning "Taipei formula," calling on our spectators not to display national flags at international sports events. It is abundantly clear that this is not a person who has the guts to stand up against China's saber-rattling.

But oddly enough, this very same man, with his heart now set on winning the nation's top job next year, has suddenly had an epiphany. Enter the new, enlightened, spectator-sport-friendly Ma.

The change is good -- better late than never.

And at least Ma is being consistent on one point: His stance is always changing and he has no intention of acknowledging his past position and poor policies. That will make it easy to recognize him on the hustings, no matter how often he flip-flops.

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