President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday thanked the nations that supported Taiwan when the world’s largest freediving organization removed the national flag during a live feed after China’s official broadcaster complained.
The International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) removed Taiwan’s flag during a live broadcast of the Individual Depth Freediving World Championship in Cyprus on Tuesday, in which five Taiwanese divers competed.
The organization said that it removed the flag after the broadcaster complained that displaying the flag would affect its broadcast of the event, leaving Taiwan as the only one among the 44 participating nations without a flag.
Photo courtesy of AIDA Taiwan via CNA
The organization on Thursday apologized, saying: “We learn from our mistakes and we’ll set different streams from now on to prevent this from happening again.”
However, AIDA Taiwan said that even though AIDA president Alexandru Russu had apologized to the Taiwanese delegation on the day of the event, the organization would not show the flag again during the broadcast on Wednesday and Thursday.
AIDA Taiwan said it was given two options: Either leave the space for the flag blank or compete under the banner of Chinese Taipei, as the nation did in the Tokyo Olympics.
The Taiwanese athletes subsequently asked the organizers to leave the space blank, as the flag used in the Olympics “signifies the long oppression [of Taiwan] by China” on the international stage, AIDA Taiwan said in an open letter published on Facebook. “If AIDA International could so easily take down the national flag of one of their member states simply because of the Chinese market or sponsors’ will, we raise the question where is the spirit and dignity of AIDA as a non-profit organization when facing such temptations.”
AIDA Taiwan called on the organizers to explain their decision and initiate an internal investigation into the matter, while urging other participating nations to support Taiwan’s request.
Japan was the first among at least 10 countries that subsequently requested the organizers remove their flags in solidarity with Taiwan.
“AIDA Japan strongly requests AIDA International. Please remove the Japanese flag from the competition list on YouTube LIVE,” AIDA Japan said in an open message. “We cannot overlook the situation that only Taiwan is disadvantaged. We want to share the pain with Taiwan.”
Countries that removed their national flags included Germany, Russia, South Korea and the US.
“I thank the athletes from these countries for showing their will and supporting Taiwan,” Tsai wrote on Facebook.
When entering Thursday’s competition, Taiwanese participants flashed the national flag.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman-elect Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) office yesterday said in a statement that the broadcaster complained and threatened to end the broadcast, as it feared that Chinese might see the Republic of China flag.
The decision to remove the flag without consultation is unacceptable, the office said, rejecting the organizers’ apology.
It urged Beijing to allow the display of the flag, saying that the broadcaster’s move contributed to many China-friendly Taiwanese becoming alienated.
The office also thanked the athletes of other nations who stood with Taiwan and requested that their flags be removed.
Additional reporting by Lee Hsin-fang and Shih Hsiao-kuang
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