Tue, Dec 25, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Taipei councilors take Mayor Ma to task over flag ban

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two DPP city councilors questioned the true colors of Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday because earlier this month Ma told fans attending an international soccer event to leave Taiwan's flag at home.

City councilors Duan Yi-kang (段宜康) and Lee Chien-chang (李建昌) questioned the mayor's patriotism, saying that when it comes to confrontation with China, Ma's "sense of national identity is questionable."

In the lead up to the AFC Women's Championship, held from Dec. 4 to 11, Ma asked soccer fans not to bring the national flag to the games. That upset many Taiwanese, who brought the flags to games in protest.

At a press conference yesterday, fans who attended the games said it was unfair that Taiwanese weren't allowed to wave their national flag at a sporting event held in Taipei.

"In the stadium, policemen came over and forcefully tried to snatch away my flag," said one of the fans, who wished to remain anonymous. "They ended up breaking the pole off my flag."

The tournament was held in accordance with the rules of the International Olympic Committee, which bars fans from displaying flags of countries that are not members of the organization. Taiwan participates in the Olympics under the name "Chinese Taipei" and has a separate flag for Olympic events.

"The [policemen] told us that by waving the flag we were doing harm to our country," said another fan at the press conference. "That was ridiculous and very disappointing to hear from a government official."

Officials have argued that if the flag isn't banned at international sporting matches in Taiwan, China will pressure event organizers not to hold tournaments in Taiwan.

"It's incredibly frustrating. We are not allowed to wave our national flag in our own country, but the Chinese can wave their flag," another fan said.

Duan said the city government had ignored a statement issued by the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, which said that "fans who want to carry their national flag into the stadium must be allowed to do so under Olympic rules."

The councilors said that Ma had compromised Taiwan's dignity and forced policemen to act like "servants of China."

Ma said he was simply following requirements set by the Chinese Taipei Soccer Association, which follows Olympic rules. "The city government had no other motive than to maintain order."

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