AIDA International apologizes to Taiwan over flag removal
Taipei, Oct. 1 (CNA) The International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA), the world's largest organizer of free-diving competitions, apologized to Taiwan Thursday over its unilateral decision to remove the country's flag during a live feed display due to a complaint from China's official broadcaster.
A statement on the AIDA International official website said: "We would like to apologize for the incident with the flag of Taiwan during the streaming of the AIDA World Championship."
"The stop of the stream by the Chinese authorities took us by surprise and the team was not prepared to deal with it on such short notice, but we learn from our mistakes and we'll set different streams from now on to prevent this from happening again," AIDA International said.
The apology took place after the association unilaterally removed Taiwan's national flag on Sept. 28 during the live streaming of competition at the world championship held in Cyprus, where Taiwan had five competitors.
That decision came after the official Chinese broadcaster complained over the display of the Taiwan flag and noted that its presence had impacted the quality of the broadcast in China. The decision to remove the flag was made to guarantee smooth streaming of the event in China, AIDA Taiwan told the press.
As a result, Taiwan was the only country without a national flag among 44 participating countries, according to AIDA Taiwan.
While AIDA International President Alexandru Russu apologized to the Taiwan delegation over the flag removal on the evening of Sept. 28, the association also clearly stated that it would not reinstate the Taiwanese flag on screen, according to AIDA Taiwan.
Taiwan was left with two choices: either use its International Olympic Committee (IOC) flag, which was used during the recent Tokyo Olympics, or leave the national flag space blank.
"Limited by the options, our athlete chose to remain the space blank rather than using the Taiwanese IOC flag which signifies the long oppression by China in international society," AIDA Taiwan said in an English open letter of protest on the incident, published on its Facebook page before AIDA International issued its apology.
AIDA Taiwan said the country and the international free-diving community have no obligation to accommodate such absurd requests from China.
"If AIDA International could so easily take down the national flag of one of their member state(s) simply because of the Chinese market or sponsors' will, (we) raise the question that where is the spirit and dignity of AIDA as a non-profit organization when facing such temptations," AIDA Taiwan said.
"What is happening on AIDA Taiwan the similar situation could also happen in any other member state," it said.
In the open letter, AIDA Taiwan also asked other members of AIDA International to stand with it, including urging the assembly to investigate the matter seriously and a request for the executive committee of AIDA International to clearly explain their decision-making process.
The executive committee must also make a public apology to AIDA Taiwan and Taiwanese athletes, and "publicly assure that politics should not mix with sport in the future AIDA competition," AIDA Taiwan said.
As many as 10 countries responded to Taiwan's call, including Japan, Russia, the United States, South Korea and Germany.
Those countries removed their national flags during streaming to show support for Taiwan.
"AIDA Japan strongly requests AIDA International. Please remove the Japanese flag from the competition list on YouTube LIVE as well as the Taiwanese flag," the association said in an English open message.
"We cannot overlook the situation that only Taiwan is disadvantaged. We want to share the pain with Taiwan," it said. "We will not allow politics to interfere in our sport."
AIDA Taiwan thanked the free-diving community for expressing solidarity with it, adding "for that, we are deeply moved and grateful."
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