Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Ma in backflip on right to fly the flag

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has vowed to defend the right of audiences at sports games to carry national flags, adding that if he were elected next year, his government would cancel any games where Chinese teams refused to cooperate.

"I will make it clear with China that the existence of the Republic of China [ROC] cannot be ignored in cross-strait exchanges. Any move that belittles the ROC will damage cross-strait relations," Ma said in a written statement on Friday.

Ma made the remarks after attending a meeting with locals in Pingtung, where he was asked to comment on the Straits Cup basketball tournament in Hualien last week, where some fans were prevented from waving the national flag.

"We will fight for our freedom to bring the national flag if the host country blocks Taiwanese from carrying the national flag or from singing the national anthem," he said in the statement.

Ma said that International Olympic Committee regulations on national flags and anthems should not include the audience. As such, audiences should be allowed to bring flags and sing national anthems.

"As long as the audiences bring the national flags or sing national anthems voluntarily, their actions should not be banned, as it is the public's right to express their passions for their country," he said.

If elected next year, Ma said he would not allow China to demand that the country cover national flags or pictures of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) during cross-strait exchange events in Taiwan.

"Such incidents happened frequently after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power. I will not accept it and won't let it happen again if I am elected," he said.

`CHEATING'

Ma's remarks attracted criticism from DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, who accused Ma of "cheating to get more votes."

"Ma had prevented Taiwanese from carrying the national flag [at sports events] in the past. All of a sudden, he has a change of heart on the matter," Yu said at a party event in Kaohsiung yesterday.

During the 2005 Asian Figure Skating Trophy at the Taipei Arena, the audience was banned from bringing the national flag and the Taipei City Government -- while Ma was mayor -- failed to defend the audience's right, arguing it was not the organizer of the event.

A similar situation arose during the Taiwan Auto Gymkhana Grand Prix at the Taipei Tobacco Factory in 2005, in which the national flag was not allowed to fly.

At the time, DPP Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) challenged Ma over the matter, but Ma said the city government had no right to get involved as it was merely providing the location, adding that the host of the event had agreed to follow the IOC model and not display the flag during the event.

Meanwhile, Ma spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) threatened to file defamation lawsuits yesterday against the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper) and Formosa TV unless they corrected reports they made yesterday saying that during the Asian Women's Football Championship in 2001, Ma had asked police to prevent people from bringing national flags into the stadium.

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