Fri, Apr 27, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan kills China's torch relay plan

'WORST ROUTE' The government and the local Olympics committee said the plan was an attempt to belittle Taiwan's status, while the mayor of Taipei welcomed it

By Max Hirsch and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH AGENCIES, TAIPEI AND BEIJING

The government last night rejected Beijing's announcement yesterday that the Olympic torch would arrive in Taiwan from Vietnam before traveling to Hong Kong on the grounds that the route belittled Taiwan's status.

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) described Beijing's proposal as the "worst route."

At a separate press conference held late last night together with Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee chairman Tsai Chen-wei (蔡辰威), Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Director-General Yang Jong-her (楊忠和) said that "the move is unacceptable as it belittles Taiwan's sovereignty."

The route announced by Beijing implied that Taiwan was part of China's domestic route, he added.

A protest would be lodged with Beijing and an adjustment to the route was necessary, Yang said.

Beijing announced last night that the 137,000km route for the torch relay would include a trip to Mt Everest and visits to 20 "international" cities on five continents over three months prior to the Beijing Games next year.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said Taiwan would be better off rejecting the proposal if the Olympic torch became a "political torch."

Wu Chin-tsai (吳進財), secretary-general of the Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, said earlier yesterday that the council "couldn't accept the torch arriving from a third country to Taiwan and then going on to Hong Kong or Macau."

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Liu Teh-hsun (劉德勳) said earlier this week that Taiwan -- a member of the IOC under the name "Chinese Taipei" -- would be honored to host a leg of the torch relay in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, but that the torch must arrive and depart the nation via a third country.

Including Taiwan in China's domestic relay instead of on an international route would imply that Taiwan is a part of China, Liu said, adding that any such arrangement was unacceptable.

Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers also said last week that they would not accept hosting the relay if the torch were to enter or exit the country via Hong Kong or Macau.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), however, issued a statement late last night saying that politics should be kept separate from sport.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), a member of the KMT, welcomed the route, saying that he and 120 people would welcome the torch and arrange for it to pass through municipal attractions including Taipei 101, the world's tallest building.

"It's a great chance for Taipei to shine in the international community. I want to welcome the torch on behalf of Taipei's residents. Taipei will be ready to greet the Olympic torch," Hau told a press conference last night at Taipei City Hall after learning of the decision of the IOC.

The Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and the city government would lead the torch to Taipei 101 on the day it arrives in Taipei, Hau said. The city had also invited 120 people to attend the torch-lighting ceremony on the following day, with the torch passing through a 24km route around the city, he said.

The city government would discuss the details of the relay route with the committee, he said, while calling on key figures in sports and other fields to join him in the torch relay.

Stressing that the city would work closely with the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee to complete the mission, Hau urged the government to accept the route.

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