President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said his opening of the World Games as president of the Republic of China (ROC) was the result of improved cross-strait relations under his administration.
Members of the Chinese team, however, were not at the opening ceremony when Ma made the announcement. Local media reports said the Chinese delegation boycotted the opening ceremony to avoid giving the impression that Beijing authorities recognize Ma’s status as president or Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state.
“Announcing the opening of the Eighth Kaohsiung World Games is not something we would have been able to do before, but we did it now because of the policies we adopted,” Ma said yesterday while campaigning in Nantou County for his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman election bid. “We are making efforts to improve cross-strait relations and reduce confrontations. We are also working hard to defend Taiwan’s interests.”
Ma said his cross-strait policies promoted peace across the Taiwan Strait and did not sacrifice the country’s sovereignty.
“[The opposition parties] said we would sell out Taiwan, but we never did. We hope to communicate with the opposition camp and reach consensus so that the country will be more united,” he said.
He did not mention the Chinese delegation’s absence at the ceremony.
Ma attended the opening ceremony of the World Games in Kaohsiung on Thursday night.
Following International World Games Association (IWGA) president Ron Froehlich’s introduction of Ma as president of the Republic of China, Ma took the podium and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I now declare open the eighth edition of the World Games in Kaohsiung 2009.”
In response to Ma’s comments, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said yesterday that the president should have attributed the achievement not to Beijing, but to Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊).
Cheng said that the opening of the World Games was usually announced by the host city’s mayor, but that Chen had successfully negotiated with the IWGA to have Ma open the Games in his capacity as president.
Ma should have expressed regret over Beijing’s boycott of the opening, Cheng said. It was obvious that Beijing did not accept Ma announcing the opening of the World Games in his capacity as head of state, he said.
Whether Ma would attend the event as the nation’s leader was contentious from the beginning. In response to a Kaohsiung City Government request, the IWGA initially sent a letter in April saying that no head of state had presided over the opening of the Games in its history.
At the time, the IWGA said it would invite Ma as a “special guest.”
Following further negotiation, the IWGA issued a written statement confirming Ma’s attendance at the World Games in his capacity as ROC president.
Froehlich said in an English statement issued via the Kaohsiung Organizing Committee that the decision was made in agreement with the National Olympic Committee of Chinese Taipei, the IWGA and the Kaohsiung City Government.
“This act shows respect for the efforts the host has made to present outstanding Games,” he said at the time.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG AND STAFF WRITER