Fri, Jul 27, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: China stoking Taiwanese anger

One day after Beijing pressured other members of the East Asian Olympic Committee into stripping Taichung of its right to host the first East Asian Youth Games in August next year, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) officially confirmed speculation that the move was in response to a referendum proposal on Taiwan’s national sports team competing under the name “Taiwan” rather than its usual appellation of “Chinese Taipei” at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Lauding what he called the right decision by the committee, TAO spokesman An Fengshan (安峰山) on Wednesday told reporters in Beijing that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has connived with proponents of the referendum drive, which he said blatantly challenges the “Olympic model.”

The “Olympic model” refers to a protocol signed between Taiwan and the International Olympic Committee in 1981 in which Taiwan has to compete in the Olympics under the name “Chinese Taipei” and is represented by the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag at Olympic events.

If China’s goal through this political move was to quash and discourage pro-Taiwanese independence forces, what it has achieved is the opposite.

The decision to revoke Taichung’s right to host the East Asian Youth Games — which would have been the first within the Olympic family hosted by Taiwan — after the city has invested more than NT$677 million (US$22.1 million at the current exchange rate) in planning and building facilities for the event is arguably one of the biggest Chinese-orchestrated international humiliations Taiwan has suffered over the past few years.

Before the latest setback, public resentment toward China had already been on the rise due to a series of provocative moves by Beijing, including pressuring international airlines into changing their designation of Taiwan, poaching diplomatic allies and blocking Taiwan from attending the annual World Health Assembly.

Opinion polls have suggested that Beijing’s moves to suppress Taiwan would be followed by an increase in the public’s negative perception of China and a desire to see a tough response from the government.

What makes the revocation of the Games deal particularly difficult to stomach is that in the past, Beijing’s provocative actions were mostly aimed at punishing the DPP government for what it believed were attempts to change the cross-strait “status quo.”

However, the referendum proposal it cited for its latest move was launched by a civilian — track and field Olympic medalist Chi Cheng (紀政).

Perhaps the idea of a referendum seems too foreign for authoritarian China, but it is a democratic tool that allows the public to decide issues that concern them. The government has no control over what issues are raised in a referendum proposal, nor does it have the power to nip proposals not to its liking in the bud.

Beijing was barking up the wrong tree when it tried to blame the referendum proposal on the DPP administration. The DPP might share the aspiration of the referendum’s proponents to see the nation’s athletes compete under the name “Taiwan,” but there is a difference between sharing ideas and acting on them.

Before China’s latest provocation, the referendum drive did not appear to have a good chance of succeeding, as it was still 200,000 signatures shy of the about 280,000 needed for it to become official.

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