Olympians express opposition to Taiwan's name change referendum

11/21/2018 06:07 PM
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Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) A group of Taiwanese Olympians on Wednesday voiced their opposition to a national referendum on whether Taiwan should apply to participate in all international sporting events under the name "Taiwan" instead of "Chinese Taipei," the name currently used.

The Olympians expressed concern that if the Nov. 24 referendum passes, Taiwan would risk losing its Olympic membership, preventing Taiwanese athletes from competing in Olympic-related events.

"We oppose the referendum not because we don't love our country, but because we need to follow the rules and the agreement," said female archer Lei Chien-ying (雷千瑩), who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

"Hard-working Taiwanese athletes need a stage on which to showcase their strengths so that people around the world can know that we are actually from Taiwan," she said.

The agreement Lei was referring to is the agreement signed by Taiwan's Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC) with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne in 1981.

Under the pact, Taiwan is forced to compete in Olympic-related events under the name "Chinese Taipei" instead of "Taiwan" or the "Republic of China," its official name, due to Chinese pressure.

The Team Taiwan Campaign for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics initiated the referendum out of the belief that the public should be asked to decide whether the national team should compete under the name "Taiwan" at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and other international games.

The group has insisted the referendum results will not affect Taiwan's participation in Olympic-related events and is simply an exercise of Taiwanese citizens' democratic rights.

Even if Taiwan were ousted by the IOC for pushing for a name change, Taiwanese athletes would still be accepted by the IOC as independent Olympians, Yang Jong-her (楊忠和), a former sports affairs council head and one of the initiators of the campaign, has argued.

In response, Taiwan's No. 1 discus thrower Chang Ming-huang (張銘煌) called Yang's argument illogical.

Taiwanese athletes can only take part in Olympic-related events because they have obtained the results needed to qualify for the Olympics while competing under the name Chinese Taipei, Chang said at Wednesday's press event.

Were Taiwan to lose its Olympic membership, the athletes could not compete in the Olympics even as independent Olympians because their previous qualifying results would be invalidated, Chang argued.

Other participants in Wednesday's press event included Olympic double gold medalist Hsu Shu-ching (許淑淨), who retired from weightlifting earlier this year, and Taiwan's top men's sprinter Hank Yang (楊俊瀚), among others.

Hank Yang (楊俊瀚)

The press conference came a few days after the IOC sent its third letter to the CTOC last week to reiterate its position on the possibility of Taiwan changing its name from "Chinese Taipei" to "Taiwan" for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It said the name of the CTOC is determined by the Lausanne agreement, and any change would be "subject to the approval of the IOC Executive Board, in accordance with the Olympic Charter."

The IOC Executive Board examined the situation in a meeting in early May and "decided to re-confirm the IOC's position and not to approve any change to the name of the CTOC," the letter said, underlining the word "not."

Because the 1981 agreement remains fully applicable, the IOC wrote, "any attempts to exercise undue pressure on the CTOC to breach the 1981 agreement" would be seen as "external interference, which might expose the CTOC" to protective measures in the Olympic Charter.

The measure cited by the IOC was rule 27.9, which allows the suspension or withdrawal of recognition from a national Olympic committee if an action causes the activity of a committee in exercising its will to be hampered.

Meanwhile, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka (谷辣斯.尤達卡) reiterated the government's stance that the result of the name change referendum is a representation of public opinion and that it will respect the poll's result.

But she also said Taiwan currently competes in the Olympic Games under the name Chinese Taipei in accordance with IOC rules.

"We will continue to follow IOC rules in the future to protect the rights of Taiwanese athletes," she said, without elaborating.

(By Joseph Yeh)


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