Sat, Oct 09, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Flag sparks controversy at Taoyuan basketball match

BY LUNG PO-AN AND CHEN HUI-PING  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Officials confront spectators holding up the national flag at the Asian University Men’s Basketball Championship in Taoyuan County on Thursday.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

An initiative undertaken by Kainan University students yesterday to decorate their campus with Republic of China (ROC) national flags led to a dramatic reaction from a Chinese basketball team, which decided to withdraw from a game it was scheduled to play against a side from Mongolia yesterday afternoon.

Kainan University was the host of this year’s Asian University Basketball Championship, being held in Taoyuan County. Hundreds of ROC national flags were visible from the campus’ parking lots all the way to the bleachers. Upon seeing the flags, a bus carrying the Chinese team left abruptly and the team withdrew.

“We decided to bring in more national flags as a protest against the tournament organizers because we are not satisfied with the way they handled the incident yesterday [Thursday],” said a Kainan University student who declined to be named. “I don’t understand why they stopped us from hanging up our national flags.”

The student was referring to the incident on Thursday in which spectators were asked to fold up the ROC national flag they were waving at a university basketball game in Taoyuan County in the latest controversy over the display of the flag at international sporting events.

The incident took place when officials of the Chinese Taipei University Sports Federation (CTUSF), the organizer, asked three Kainan University students to take down their meter-high ROC flag at a game between Taiwan University All-Stars and China’s Tianjin Polytechnic University, saying that it was because of a “tacit understanding” with China.

The move immediately sparked outrage from both the students and opposition party lawmakers, who slammed the gesture as “unreasonable” and “disappointing.”

“I’m only half Taiwanese, but whenever I go to international competitions, I always bring the Taiwanese flag,” said Chong Nian-chu (塚念祖), a first-year accounting student at the university. “This competition took place in Taiwan and in our school’s own gymnasium. Why was [I] not allowed to do so?”

Adding that he was also half Japanese, Chong said his intention was originally to express his support for the Taiwanese team. Despite having his flag taken down, Chong insisted that he “definitely had the right” to wave Taiwan’s national symbol.

The week-long competition follows the “Chinese Taipei formula” set up by the International Olympic Committee in 1981.

Under the formula, Taiwanese teams must participate in sporting events under the name “Chinese Taipei” and organizers are not allowed to hang ROC national flags at sporting venues. However, the regulations do not cover spectators.

Information suggests the Chinese team was ready to stop the game and lodge a protest when the three students started to hold up the flag near the end of the third quarter.

The action was promptly stopped by head referee Lee Hung-chi (李鴻棋).

“We didn’t want to wait until the other team protested to dissuade the students. It was done to avoid any unexpected problems,” Lee said.

He later attempted to downplay the incident, saying that he had only “advised” the students to take down the flag because it was getting in the way of other spectators trying to watch the game. Yet picture evidence showed that the flag was held up in the last row of bleachers, well behind any other spectators.

Unconvinced by Lee’s explanation, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) questioned why Lee “was so afraid of China.”

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