Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: One movement you can count on

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

Where is the line between political and apolitical?

Foreigners living here a while may have learned by now that everything involving this twilight zone we call home is political. But for those of you still under the illusion that a baseball game is just a baseball game, welcome to our world. Let me fill you in.

Beijing's bullying in ostensibly non-political international contexts is part of its mission to liberate its Taiwanese "brethren."

Its strategy? Annoy the hell out of our medical experts, athletes, filmmakers and scientists who'd like nothing more than to go to an international forum, festival or tournament without fighting to the death for a visa and being trapped in mind-numbing debates over the national title ("Chinese Taipei" at APEC, "Taipei, China" at the Asian Development Bank, and the "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu" at the WTO, for starters).

This month, Taiwan was allowed to participate as an observer at the Kimberley Process for the first time. Participant countries work together to put an end to shady diamond sales that fund armed conflict in Africa. But China wasn't so much interested in ending war as in blocking Taiwan from taking part.

China probably threatened to buy every blood diamond it could get its hands on, but in the end this year's chair, the EU, let Taiwan in on the fun.

Feels pretty good, huh? Bask in the glory. But whatever you do, don't look at the Kimberley Process Web site, where we're listed as the "rough-diamond trading entity of Chinese Taipei."

If only the vicious world of politics was confined to adults.

Over the summer, after months of trying to secure visas for our Asian Champion youth baseballers, it became clear that host Venezuela would not let Taiwan compete at the world Youth Baseball Championships.

These kids weren't going to Venezuela to declare independence. They were going to play ball -- and are probably as interested in politics as I am likely to lick made-in-China Elmo dolls. So imagine my glee when the International Baseball Federation canceled the entire world competition just two days ahead of its start because Taiwan would have been excluded.

Our athletes, who suffer the embarrassment of being known in the sporting world as "Chinese Taipei," aren't the only ones forced to fight for a little respect. But even a cynic like me was surprised when the eternal squabble over our name turned up at the world bird conservation partnership, BirdLife International.

Chairman Peter Schei of Norway, in a perverted mating call to Beijing, is pushing our member organization, the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan, to drop that pesky last word in its title.

What does it take to interest bird-nerds in politics? Maybe guaranteed access to some of China's restricted border areas they've been drooling over for decades. Or did Beijing threaten to relaunch its Mao-era no-sparrow-left-behind campaign?

I would've expected a little more sympathy from Schei -- him being from a country that no one knows anything about, except that dead parrots pine for its fjords.

All of this came on the heels of the World Organization for Animal Health downgrading us ("us" in this case being "Taipei China" -- no comma this time) to a "non-sovereign regional member" in May upon Beijing's request.

Admittedly, China made a convincing case for the change: It refused to pay its membership dues.

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