Fri, Jul 25, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan’s Olympic title fuels controversy

NAME GAME The head of the Sports Affairs Council said Taiwanese athletes would drop out of the Games if Beijing insisted on referring to the nation as ‘Taipei, China’

By Shih Hsiu-Chuan and Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Saying that Beijing had already made a concession in referring to Taiwan’s Olympic team as Zhonghua Taibei (中華台北, “Chinese Taipei”) within the arena of Olympic activities, the Presidential Office yesterday argued that it was not worth protesting or condemning Chinese state media for using an alternative title, Zhongguo Taibei (中國台北, “Taipei, China”).

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Wednesday that the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games would abide by the 1989 agreement signed in Hong Kong that Taiwan would be referred to as Zhonghua Taibei within the context of the Olympics, while the media would continue to call Taiwan Zhongguo Taibei.

It was not an attempt to denigrate Taiwan’s Olympic team, Beijing officials said, because it was a name commonly used by the media.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office also urged both sides to comply with the Hong Kong agreement and “extend goodwill to each other” in a bid to “properly resolve the problem and misunderstanding.”

The Hong Kong agreement specifies that Taiwan should be referred to as Zhonghua Taibei in Chinese characters in publications or public information related to the the Olympic Games, including brochures, invitation letters, badges and media broadcasts.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said yesterday that if both sides extended goodwill gestures, it would generate a benign circle.

As Taipei has already shown its goodwill, it is likely that Beijing would follow suit, Wang said.

“Let’s just wait and see,” he told the press conference.

Wang said Beijing’s response to Taipei’s goodwill would depend on individual interpretations.

“We don’t think it is malice. Actually, we think it is a kind of goodwill,” Wang said. “I don’t think Beijing would feel good if we continue to gripe about this and complain about that, since they have changed their position from Zhongguo Taipei to Zhonghua Taipei within the context of the Olympics. I think that is an improvement.”

Wang said the Taiwan Affairs Office had explained on Wednesday that the name Zhongguo Taibei had “historic roots” and that the name was not being used just for the Beijing Olympics.

When asked whether the administration would lodge a protest or condemn the Chinese media’s use of Zhongguo Taibei, Wang said he did not see the necessity for such a response, adding that people had to understand the “historical background” of the title.

As Taiwan is a democracy, people are free to express different opinions, but whenever China makes any official announcement, it is carefully crafted and meaningful, Wang said.

Wang said he “felt the goodwill” extended by Beijing.

“Our fundamental position is this: We hope the Olympics is a success and we have made it clear that our bottom line is using Zhonghua Taibei. We will never back down on this,” he said.

Wang said he agreed with the Taiwan Affairs Office’s statement on Wednesday that it had no control over media reports about the Games, saying that, “theoretically, the agreement signed between both sides and Olympic rules do not regulate the media.”

The Mainland Affairs Council, meanwhile, expressed regret and bafflement at Beijing’s reluctance to request that the Chinese media refer to Taiwan’s Olympic team Zhonghua Taibei.

The council proposed that both sides continue to negotiate the issue based on the 1989 agreement.

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