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.
Council Deputy Chairman Liu Teh-hsun (劉德勳) said yesterday that the council was glad to see Beijing follow the 1989 agreement and called for both sides to “extend goodwill to each other” and “properly resolve the problem and misunderstanding.”
However, the council felt “regret” and was “bewildered” that Beijing did not ask its media to follow suit, Liu said.
The government yesterday called on BOCOG to respect established Olympic protocol in arranging Taiwan’s participation in the Games, which covers the nation’s official Olympic title and athletes’ placement in the opening march sequence.
It was decided at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that Taiwan’s official Olympic title should be Zhonghua Taibei whenever it is referred to in Chinese, while the nation’s athletes should be placed among the other countries whose names begin with “T” when the teams march into the Olympic stadium.
BOCOG proposed a plan in April that delegations in the opening ceremony would march in order of the number of strokes in the Chinese characters for their name, diverging from the IOC’s practice of arranging the teams in alphabetical order according to their English name.
If the plan were to be approved by the IOC, the Taiwanese athletes, who had previously entered the Olympic stadium among teams from countries whose names started with a “T,” would be put between Japan and the Central African Republic.
Since China, as the host of the Games, will be the last team to enter the stadium, the Taiwanese team would not be put next to the Chinese team at this year’s Games. But the government worries that the change would set a precedent for Taiwan to be grouped with Hong Kong and China in future international competitions.
“We asked Beijing to abide by the 1989 Hong Kong agreement. This is the government’s clear-cut stance. The government takes communication on the matter [with China] seriously,” Executive Yuan Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) told a press conference after the meeting.
Shih said Liu told the Cabinet meeting that the Sports Affairs Council should continue to negotiate with the IOC and BOCOG on the entry sequence to defend the country’s interests.
The Executive Yuan’s Sports Affairs Council yesterday presented a proposal regarding preparations for the Games to the weekly Cabinet meeting.
On March 23, 1981, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC) signed an agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Taiwan would be referred to as “Chinese Taipei,” or “TPE” for short, the proposal said.
Based on the agreement, the CTOC signed agreements with the Chinese Olympic Committee in 1989 and the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, in 2001 that stated that sports teams or organizations representing Taiwan should be called Zhonghua Taibei in Chinese, the council’s proposal said.
Chinese officials have said that Zhongguo Taibei was also a valid translation for Taiwan’s official English Olympic designation and the Chinese media have been using the term since 1979 without the intention of being hostile to Taiwan or downgrading its status.
Later yesterday, Sports Affairs Council Chairwoman Tai Hsia-ling (戴遐齡) told reporters that the country’s delegation would drop out of the Games if the Beijing organizing committee were to refer to it as Zhongguo Taibei.
The 1989 agreement did not stipulate what the media should call the Taiwanese team, and the council has no authority over the dispute, Tai said.
However, the council said in a statement yesterday that the Taiwan Affairs Office should desist from saying that the Chinese media are not required to abide by the Hong Kong agreement when referring to the Taiwanese team in Chinese, as this would encourage the Chinese media to use the incorrect translation more frequently.
“The council is concerned that the gesture will not only irritate Taiwanese, but also affect the decisions of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄) and former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) on attending the Beijing Olympics as visitors,” the statement said.
When asked for comment yesterday, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) urged both sides of the Taiwan Strait to respect each other in terms of Taiwan’s title at the Olympic Games.
However, he added that Taiwanese could not accept being referred to as Zhongguo Taibei.
“[Insistence on using Zhongguo Taibei] may damage the improvement in cross-strait relations,” he said.
KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) said the nation had to insist on being addressed as “Chinese Taipei” in formal Olympic documents and in related events.
Taiwan should consider boycotting the opening ceremony of the Games should China fail to address Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei” at the Games, he said.
KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) said Taiwan should boycott the Games if its title were to be changed.
Chiu said information he had received from China showed that Beijing might extend an olive branch to Taiwan on this issue. He did not elaborate.
Additional reporting by Flora Wang and Shelley Shan
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