Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 1 News List

PRC, Taiwan at odds over flame route

MIXED MESSAGES The official in charge of the 2008 Olympics said a deal had been reached that would see the torch pass through Taiwan, which local officials denied

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH BLOOMBERG AND AFP

Government officials yesterday took exception to assertions by Beijing that Taiwan had already agreed to be included in the 2008 Olympic torch relay, saying it was "too early" to say that a settlement had been reached.

The diplomatic tiff began after Chinese officials claimed that Taiwan had agreed to be included in the torch relay for the 2008 Olympics.

Although the exact route hasn't been determined, Taiwan will feature in the flame's procession, Wang Wei (王偉), vice president of the organizing committee said in Beijing at a news conference. He didn't provide any details.

"Taiwan is indeed in the torch relay," Wang said. "A tentative decision has been made. Nothing is set in stone."

"In general, both sides agreed that the torch relay can go through Taiwan. As for the details, they are under discussion," Wang said. "Taiwan has agreed Taiwan will be included on the Olympic torch relay."

"You all know that [the Taiwan leg] is a very sensitive matter and needs discussion and I will not go into details. But according to the previous discussion between the two sides, a tentative decision has been made," Wang said.

But Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) spokesman Johnnason Liu (劉德勳) said yesterday it was too early to say that Taiwan had agreed to be part of the torch relay.

Whether and how the torch will pass through Taiwan are still under discussion, he said.

"Taiwan is an official member of the International Olympic Committee [IOC] and it would be an honor for Taiwan if the torch were carried through here. But all the details of the relay are still under negotiation and discussion," Liu told the Taipei Times.

Liu on Friday said there were four conditions that would have to be met before Taiwan could participate in the relay.

The conditions were that the torch be handled in accordance with IOC protocol; that China ask the government's permission to have the torch pass through Taiwan; that China guarantee Taiwan's sovereignty will not be compromised in connection to the relay; and that the relay be conducive to future constructive interaction between Taiwan and China.

Liu added that he could not confirm whether the Olympic torch would be required to enter Taiwan from a location other than Hong Kong or Macau, or depart from Taiwan to a location other than Hong Kong or Macau, as the discussions were "ongoing."

The Chinese torch's design and the Greece-Beijing route are scheduled to be unveiled on Thursday, but Liu said that the announcement might "be delayed for a couple of days."

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Wang confirmed that the torch relay will include a trip to the summit of Mount Everest. The Olympics, China's first, will run from Aug. 8 to Aug. 24 next year.

Wang also said China was sticking to plans for a leg to Everest and through Tibet, which has been criticized for several reasons, including concerns that the logistical effort would damage the environment and objections by groups opposing China's control of Tibet.

"Allowing China to run the Olympic torch through Tibet would mean the IOC's mark of approval for China's military occupation of our nation," said a statement issued last week by New York-based Students for a Free Tibet.

Olympic host nations have recently sought to leave their mark with increasingly ambitious torch relays.

The torch was borne along Australia's Great Barrier Reef in a sealed baton by scuba divers for the 2000 Sydney Games, while the Athens 2004 relay circumnavigated the globe, taking the flame to Africa and South America.

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