Taiwanese officials had to intervene at the WorldSkills Competition in London after China pressured the WorldSkills International Vocational Training Organization (WSI) to ask Taiwan to change its flag, on the grounds that the letters “TW” on the flag were unacceptable.
The intervention was required even though the flag was initially approved by the organizers, who decided the letters “TW” could remain on the flag used at the competition.
The biannual competition has been held for more than 60 years, but Taiwan only started participating in the 1970s, when it used the name “Chinese Taipei.”
However, as China has become more assertive, there have been a number of disputes at the WSI.
Prior to 2005, the Taiwanese team always used the Republic of China (ROC) national flag, but during the competition in Finland in 2005, China was reported to have pressured the WSI to ban the use of the national flag.
Despite that decision, then-Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) chairperson Chen Chu (陳菊) displayed the national colors when she led the Taiwanese team into the arena, leading the WSI to pass the “Republic of China clause,” which stipulates that any nation participating in the competition that uses a national flag must apply a year in advance.
Since then, approval to use the ROC national flag has been denied by all host countries.
During the competition in Canada two years ago, a CLA official confiscated flags from students and athletes and only returned them prior to returning to Taiwan.
Officials said they had done so for security reasons.
That year, the Taiwanese team used the WSI flag.
The latest flag controversy occurred last month, when the WSI informed Taipei that it had “concerns” over the letters “TW” on the flag and asked that this be changed.
Because of the sensitivity of the matter and the fact that Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) was traveling on -business, council Deputy Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) was appointed sole spokesperson on the matter.
Pan said the request to change the flag was the personal opinion of the WSI chairman and that after negotiations, it was agreed that the letters “TW” could stay on the flag and be used during the competition.
Pan said he did not know if the controversy was the result of pressure from China.
As to an earlier promise made by the council during the competition in Canada, to do all it could to persuade host countries to allow Taiwanese teams to use the national flag at future events, Pan declined to comment.
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer