The Olympic Charter in the sixth Fundamental Principles of Olympism prohibits discrimination based on nationality or political opinion. It also requires that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) maintain political neutrality and take action against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic movement (rules 2.5, 2.6 and 16.1.3).
The Japanese Olympic Committeeis required to ensure the observance of the charter and take action against discrimination carried out within Japan (Rule 27.2).
The committees are failing to carry out their missions. Athletes from Taiwan are discriminated against on the basis of their nationality, and it must stop.
Every country that participates in the Olympic Games is allowed to use its name, flag and national anthem.
Taiwan is the only exception. For 40 years, Taiwanese athletes have been forced to endure the humiliation of competing as representatives of an imaginary country, “Chinese Taipei,” and carrying a fake national flag while an alternative national anthem plays in the background.
It is so degrading that Rosa Chien (錢薇娟), one of the greatest female basketball players in Taiwanese history, said that she cries after Taiwan wins, not because she is happy, but because the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag instead of the Taiwanese flag is raised during victory ceremonies.
The only other country that would not be allowed to use its flag and anthem at the Tokyo Olympic Games is Russia, as a punishment for cheating for running a doping program.
That Taiwan is lumped into the same category is outrageous.
The basis for the IOC’s discrimination against Taiwan boils down to one main reason: The IOC has forsaken political neutrality and sided with China’s authoritarian regime, which falsely claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and has been threatening to invade and start a war.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) obstinately opposes Taiwan competing in the Olympics under any name which suggests that it is an independent country, even though Taiwan has never been a part of the People’s Republic of China.
Because Beijing is hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the CCP is able to exert a significant amount of leverage over the IOC to get what it wants.
The IOC’s decision to force Taiwan to continue competing as Chinese Taipei is not only discriminatory and politically motivated, it also violates Rule 30.2 of the charter which states that “the name of an NOC [National Olympic Committee] must reflect the territorial extent and tradition of its country.”
The name “Chinese Taipei” does not reflect the territorial extent of Taiwan. At 272km2, Taiwan’s capital city represents less than 1 percent of the nation’s land area. Moreover, a poll last year showed that a mere 2.4 percent of people in Taiwan identify as “Chinese,” whereas the overwhelming majority identifies as “Taiwanese.”
The name “Chinese Taipei” originates in a 1981 compromise between the IOC and the authoritarian government that ruled Taiwan at the time, a government that was still sore over the Chinese Civil War which ended in 1949.
Much has changed since those times. While China still clings to the past, Taiwan has moved on. It is one of the freest and most democratic countries in the world, whereas China is one of the least.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) falsely claims that Taiwan is a rogue province which he threatens to take over by force, while President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) does not make any sort of reciprocal claims or threats. She instead calls for dialogue “under the conditions of equality and dignity.”
In the past few years, the term “Chinese Taipei” has come to be regarded by Taiwanese as a symbol of shame and oppression by China.
A New York Times article in 2017 asked readers in the US to imagine how they would feel if the US had to compete in international sports events as “British Washington.”
The name “Chinese Taipei” understandably elicits negative emotions among Taiwanese, and to the rest of the world serves as a source of confusion and misunderstanding as it is not a place that anyone can find on a map.
It is a name that belongs in the dustbin of history. There is no rational explanation for its perpetuation, apart from the CCP’s fierce insistence on it.
Taiwan in 2018 held a referendum, asking voters to decide whether the nation should compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as “Taiwan” instead of “Chinese Taipei.”
Just days before the vote, the IOC flagrantly interfered by issuing a letter suggesting that Taiwan would be banned from the Olympics if it attempted to compete as “Taiwan.”
Due to the IOC’s pressure, many famous Taiwanese Olympic athletes came out publicly against the referendum, for fear of having their careers ruined. They reasoned that it was better to compete under discriminatory circumstances than not compete at all.
As a result, the referendum failed, but not by much. Forty-five percent still voted for Taiwan to compete using its own name, despite knowing that Taiwan would likely be banned from the Olympics.
No other country has been faced with such a choice — only Taiwan. It is an injustice, and it must end now.
The last time that Tokyo hosted the Olympics, in 1964, Taiwan competed as “Taiwan” and used its own flag. Taiwan should be given the opportunity to compete as itself once again in Tokyo, without fear of being expelled.
Thomas Bach, president of the IOC since 2013, should be held accountable for the discriminatory treatment of Taiwanese athletes. Under his leadership, the IOC has failed to carry out its mission and follow its own rules. There is no excuse for it.
As a German who won a gold medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games when his country was divided, Bach is surely aware that then-West Germany and then-East Germany were both able to compete using their respective names, national flags and national anthems. The same is true of North and South Korea today. Taiwan should not be treated any differently.
If “#BeijingBach” does not have the courage to stand up to the CCP and end the IOC’s discrimination against Taiwan, he does not deserve to be the IOC president.
He should resign and make room for a new leader who would stand up for the principle that all athletes have a right to be treated with equality and respect, no matter which country they come from.
Lindell Lucy is a master’s student at the Harvard Extension School and teaches at a high school in Tokyo. He started this petition to Thomas Bach and seven others (https://www.change.org/let-taiwan-be-taiwan).
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