For an expat who has lived abroad for many years, there is always a heartwarming feeling upon hearing any British media mentioning the word “Taiwan.”
In recent months, the Chinese government has actively been demanding that many international airlines change the geographical title of “Taiwan” to “China,” and even pressured the East Asian Olympic Committee into revoking Taichung’s right to host the East Asian Youth Games, which were due to take place in August next year.
These malicious political acts have been felt by all of us. Sadly, for those of us abroad, the Chinese government has been staging a silent revolution in the UK for years, and more recently targeting the independent British media.
There is ample evidence of this. This year at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, Taiwanese player Hsieh Su-Wei (謝淑薇) delighted the crowd by knocking Simona Halep, the current women’s world No. 1, out in the third round. The game was hosted on No. 1 Court, one of the largest at Wimbledon, and was watched live by millions on prime time TV on Saturday afternoon.
The BBC commentator excitedly described Hsieh as “the black swan from Chinese Taipei.”
A week later, another Taiwanese player, Tseng Chun-hsin (曾俊欣), beat UK player Jake Draper in front of his home crowd. When Tseng was lifting the trophy, the commentator sourly commented that “it’s time to watch out for this boy from Chinese Taipei.”
Even earlier this year, during the Winter Olympics, British broadcaster ITV only talked about “Chinese Taipei’s” entrance for a few seconds before going to ads, skipping the usual commentary about the team’s background altogether.
Any readers who feel that both the BBC and ITV were simply following international sporting regulations by referring to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei are sadly misinformed. On the contrary, the British media should, as they did a few years ago, have freely addressed our players as Taiwanese.
In 2010, our men’s No. 1 tennis player Lu Yen-hsun (盧彥勳) also shocked many by staging a thriller match in the fourth round against the then-US No. 1 player, Andy Roddick, a US Open champion, and beat him to get into the quarter-finals — a first for any Taiwanese.
The BBC completely ignored the “Chinese Taipei” label on Lu’s name tag and called Lu “the Taiwanese player.”
Back then there was no restriction for Taiwanese spectators to take the national flag into Wimbledon, but now security would kick them out.
Another example was again during the Olympics, back in 2012, when they were hosted by London.
A few weeks before the Games, the Chinese embassy successfully demanded that the Regent Street business organization specifically remove Taiwan’s flag from display. It was not the Chinese Taipei sporting flag approved by the International Olympics Committee, but Regent Street is not a government controlled organization.
This caused a stir among the British press and Londoners.
Later in the opening ceremony, when the Taiwanese team entered and after the commentator read out the “approved” version of their background, BBC commentator Hazel Irvine immediately followed, saying: “Formal name Formosa, is the Portuguese word for beautiful, which I’m sure it is.” She then added: “A country of 23 million people, they prefer to call their island Taiwan.”
As a Taiwanese expat, I make sure I impress upon all those I meet the beauty and the wonderfulness of Taiwan. When the Chinese communists try to pressure us into submission, it is time for us to use people’s diplomacy to sell ourselves to the world.
Chen Chih-chin is a Taiwanese expatriate living in the UK.
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