UNIVERSIADE: Athletes-blocking protest draws widespread condemnation

08/19/2017 10:34 PM
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Taipei, Aug. 19 (CNA) Politicians from across the party line strongly condemned anti-government protesters who blocked international athletes from entering the venue of the opening ceremony of the 2017 Taipei Universiade Saturday.

A protest targeting President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) pension reform policy ended up blocking athletes from entering the Taipei Stadium where she was scheduled to welcome young athletes from around the world.

The teams were lined up to enter the venue in alphabetical order but only those from countries whose names start with A or B were able to get in after 7:00 p.m. The others were represented only by a flag bearer during the ceremony. The blockage ended at around 8:00 p.m.

Taipei City, the host city, was the first to issue a strong condemnation of the protesters. The city's spokesman Liu Yi-ting (劉奕霆) said the protesters deliberately obstructed the opening ceremony, violating the law, minimizing the legitimacy of their appeals, and making themselves a laughing stock all over the world.

Presidential Office Spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) also used "the most severe" terms to denounce the protesters and demanded relevant government agencies "investigate the illegal act and mete out punishment to mobsters."

The protesters' action threatened the safety of local citizens as well as participating athletes, violating the law and damaging Taiwan's global image, Lin added.

Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), deputy speaker of the Legislative Yuan, said he felt just "pain and more pain" after seeing the unreasonable protest.

Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), a legislator of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), accused the protesters of being willing to "sell everything for the sake of getting their own (pension) money."

Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬), another DPP lawmaker, called the protesters "a shame of Taiwan."

Lin Wei-chou (林為洲), legislative caucus whip of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) which is sympathetic with their cause, expressed regret over the incident, saying the international sports event was a "rare chance" for Taiwan to be seen in the world.

Lin said he respects the protesters' right to voice their views on a government policy and yet any opinion should be expressed in a reasonable way.

Their views should be made known just to President Tsai and the media, he said, adding, "If it was expressed in such a way as to affect the freedom of movement of the athletes, the protesters have gone overboard," he said.

Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), legislative caucus leader of minor opposition New Power Party, said emptying the opening ceremony floor to mere flags and no athletes "is not the right way of letting the world see Taiwan."

Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), lawmaker also of NPP, said the university games offer a good chance for Taiwan to get international spotlight; "no one can bear a disturbance like that which was deliberately created."

The International University Sports Federation (FISU), which awarded Taipei the right to host the 2017 games, was concerned about the athletes' security and wellbeing, saying in a statement that it has asked Taipei organizers to review future arrangements.

Still, FISU said it hopes the university games will remain a peaceful celebration of sports, education and culture.

(By Liu Chien-pang, Lu Hsin-hui, Chen Chun-hua, Oscar Wu and S.C. Chang)


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