Beijing's plan to include Taiwan as a stop in the 2008 Olympic torch relay was never more than a political ploy, panelists attending a forum on the relay said yesterday.
The attempt was obvious because Taipei, as the Chinese Olympic Committee's official Web site showed, was excluded from the official list of cities that would host the relay -- even as Beijing said in a lavish ceremony on Thursday that Taipei would host a leg of the relay.
Printouts of the Web site provided by Taiwan Thinktank yesterday, dated Thursday 8:51pm -- a half hour after Beijing announced, amid fireworks and celebrations, that Taipei would be included in the relay -- showed the committee's official list of locales to host the relay. Taiwan was marked by its absence.
PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-TUNG, TAIPEI TIMES
"The torch would go directly from Vietnam to Hong Kong. Excuse me, where would Taipei fit in?" director of Soochow University's department of political science Lo Chi-cheng (羅致政) told the forum.
The committee's Web site yesterday, however, showed that Taipei had since been added to the route, right where Beijing has said it would be: between Vietnam and Hong Kong.
But as of yesterday, the site also included a link to an animated map tracing the torch's planned route across the world and identified Taiwan only as "China."
Titled "The Planned Olympic Torch Relay Route for the 2008 Beijing Olympics," the link, at http://zhuanti.sports.cn/huoju/1.html, labels 21 stops along the route, with names of cities.
The last, or 22nd, stop is Taiwan, but neither "Taiwan" nor "Taipei" appears on the animation. The stop is labeled merely "China," a title that remains, along with "Beijing" and "Athens," after other labels have faded out.
The route begins with Beijing and ends with the fading in of the Chinese characters for "China" superimposed on Taiwan.
The link to the map was displayed on the committee's Web site yesterday and also by the All-China Sports Federation on its site. The federation and committee identify themselves as being associated with each other.
Taiwan's Olympic committee rejected the route on the grounds that it belittles Taiwan by implying the country is part of China's domestic route.
The Government Information Office issued a release on Friday saying that in Olympics-related forums at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Beijing has consistently called Taiwan "Taipei, China" rather than by its formal name "Chinese Taipei."
"It's obvious that China has a political agenda -- that it wants to make it seem like Taiwan is part of China," Mainland Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) said at the forum, adding that the IOC was complicit in pursuing that agenda.
References to Taiwan were all changed from "Taipei, China" to "Chinese Taipei" on the IOC's Web site as controversy over the proposed route broke out, Tung said.
Beijing and the Olympic committee further broke Olympic protocol by not getting Taiwan's permission before announcing the route on TV, he added.
International and Chinese Olympic committee members made the televised announcement together.
Beijing later slammed Taipei for reneging on what it said was an agreement on the announced route.
Taipei shot back that it had not agreed to China's calling Taiwan "Taipei, China" and spreading propaganda saying "Taiwan would be the torch's first stop in China."
Lo said Beijing's deciding on North Korea and Vietnam as stops preceding Taiwan was also no accident: by arranging for the torch to pass through communist countries before reaching Taiwan, China was pegging Taiwan as falling under its sphere of influence.
"It's also easier for Beijing to control the situation with its communist allies preceding Taiwan, followed by Hong Kong," he said.
"Any problems would be much harder to troubleshoot if we were sandwiched between Japan and South Korea," he said.
Emotions at the forum boiled over when political columnist Paul Lin (林保華) slammed the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- whose former chairman, Lien Chan (連戰), was shown on television consorting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday -- for its criticism of the Taiwanese government's rejection of the Olympic torch's route.
Lien and Hu began a cross-strait trade-enhancement forum between the KMT and Chinese Communist Party in Beijing yesterday.
KMT politicians had billed the relay as an opportunity to garner international attention and have demanded a separation of politics from sports.
"Taiwan could forgive those who would swindle it once or twice!" Lin screamed. "But for those who insist on singing the communists' unification song -- they are the commies' running dogs, the commies' slaves!"
"They are Taiwan's treasonous lot -- our nation's betrayers!" Lin added.
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