Taiwan: Olympic torch relay-through Taiwan or not?

2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China will have a fabulous start: the route of the Olympic torch relay will be the longest in the history (85000 miles, 130 days). However, the plan was rejected by Taiwan on April 26, 2007. The current proposed route related to Taiwan can be seen on BBC news: the Olympic torch was supposed to be relayed from Pyongyang (North Korea) to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) to Taipei (Taiwan), and to Hong Kong and Macau (China). It will then be brought to other cities in China, including Lhasa in Tibet.

Taiwan's officials said Taiwan wanted to participate as part of the ‘international’ route. For example, Taiwan would like to join the Olympic torch relay if it is relayed from Pyongyang to Taipei, and to Ho Chi Minh City. If Taiwan relays Olympic torch to Hong Kong and Macau, as Jiang Xiaoyu, the executive vice president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, said, Taipei might be referred to one of ‘the overseas Chinese cities’ like Hong Kong and Macau.

tzuhuai objected the Taiwan's officials’ rejection:

政府只不過是為了某種程度上的政治考量才去拒絕, 作秀程度大於真正的實質意義!……體育界的人士說的好:讓政治歸政治、體育歸體育! 本來就不能混為一談。 越是這樣的逃避拒絕,對岸還沒矮化我們我們救自我矮化了, 我們應該要正面回擊才是! 而不是一直用以前的手法、手段, 去逃避對岸的措施! 對岸越是想矮化我們, 我們應該要讓國際知道台灣的聲音、地位以及特有性! 而不是每每在國際舞台上自我退出, 喪失許多珍貴的機會!

The government's rejection was kind of based on their political benefit. They wanted to show off instead of understanding the essential meaning of the rejection…..What people working in athletics said is right: let politics argument go to politics, and let athletic activities go to athletics! Politics and athletics should not be mixed together. When we tried to reject or evade, we would be repressed before China represses us. We need to fight back! We should not always use the same methods to evade China's repression. As long as China wants to repress us, we should let the world know Taiwan's voice, position, and identity instead of leaving the global society and losing the valuable opportunity.

On the other hand, Chen, Yung-Chih supported this decision made by Taiwan's government.

由Temple Preah Vihear我們便可瞭解到,無論任何形式之「默示」都有可能造成國家領土的損失;既然這樣,當瀕臨絕種動物之跨國運送活動須像CITES公約組織通報 的情況下,大陸當局主張將團團與圓圓送到台灣不必向CITES公約組織通報之舉動時,以及,奧運聖火離開台灣後隨即轉向香港或澳門等一國兩制之地區時,我 們是否該思考一下,我們是否落入了「默示」的圈套裡了呢?聖火不是完全不能來,但是唯有進出台灣均行經第三第對台灣之現況才是最有利的處理方式!

From the case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear we know that any kind of ‘acceptance’ is possible to result in territory lost. As a result, when China said they could give Taiwan two pandas, which are endangered animals, without informing CITES and when China proposed to relay Olympic torch to Hong Kong and Macau, which are under the principle of ‘one country, two systems,’ after Taiwan, we need to think about if this action is a trap of ‘acceptance.’ Olympic torch can come to Taiwan, but it is advantageous to Taiwan only if it is not relayed to any cities in China before or after Taiwan.

Norya II talked about the effect of international media coverage of the story:


International media pointed out accurately that the current relay route proposed by China implies Taiwan is part of China. The reports can let people in other countries understand that Taiwan and China are different countries.

In China, some bloggers were not happy about Taiwan's rejection because they though it was an alternative claim that Taiwan and China are different countries. For example, in maozhuxi1312's article:


To Chen Shui-Bian (Taiwan president) and other secessionist: there is only one earth, and there is only one China. It's name is People's Republic of China. How about going back and weighing yourselves? If you are afraid, then you should submit yourselves to China. If you want to resist, it is a dead end!

In addition to the blame and threat, maozhuxi1312 analyzed why Taiwan rejected:

台湾目前正搞正名化,主体化,而在奥运火炬问题上早就有明确态度,从第三国进,再从第四国出。 那么目前的这个路线与台湾的想法差距比较大,我们说是意识形态也好,是防止矮化也罢,反正是谈不拢的,既然早知道谈不拢,它拒绝又有什么奇怪的,体育本身就有政治性,我们协商的对象竟然是个民间组织,这样怎么可能不失败,毕竟目前代表台湾人的是台湾政府。 如果务实的化,真的想促进两岸关系,这些问题又算什么问题,从那里进,从那里出又有什么关系,释放些善意难道就那么难?

This result could be predicted when I knew the Olympic torch was planned to relay to Taipei. Now Taiwanese are talking about name-rectification and identity, and they already showed their principle: relaying from and to other countries. The current route is different from what Taiwanese thought about. We can say it is due to ideology or avoiding repression. The route will not be accepted at the end. Since we already knew it cannot work, it is not strange that Taiwan's government rejected. Athletics itself is political. If what we are working with is a civilian organization, why will it not fail? Now it is Taiwan's government representing Taiwanese. To be pragmatic, if we want to improve the relationship between China and Taiwan, the route should not be a problem. What's the matter about relaying from or to where? Is it that difficult to show the goodwill?

There is a Chinese idiom ‘yin zhen zhi ke,’ which means drinking poison to quench thirst. It seems that China plans to set up this kind of difficult condition for Taiwan. Taiwanese hope to join the Olympic torch relay because Taiwan has been isolated from the international society because of China for so long. dAb said:


In my imaginary…it is possible that our athletes need to take the label of ‘China Taipei’ in the Olympic Games. Although I cannot be categorized into ‘pro-independence’ or ‘pro-union,’ I do not think who can accept this condition or who should accept this possibility. Reading the news, I am confused and do not know which side I should support.

In the middle of all the controversies, maybe we should read the story about how Olympic torch relay was first proposed. In 1936, before World War II, Nazis government in German gave birth to this modern Olympics symbol–a series of torch-bearing runners carrying the inspirational flame cross country to the stadium for the lighting ceremony. Was it political? The torch relay were planned to link Olympiad's origin and its modern rebirth in the Aryan ideal. Based on the book ‘Nazi Games’ written by American historian David Clay Large, the relay was turned into an advertisement for Nazi across southeastern and central Europe, a region coveted by Nazi. The seemingly innocuous torch relay to Berlin prefigured the naked aggression to come.

There is a Taiwanese proverb ‘when blind people eat dumplings, they know the number (of the dumplings that have been eaten) in their minds.’ I am sure both Taiwan's and China's officials know why they made this and that decisions. Although the slogan for 2008 Olympic Games in Beijian is ‘one world, one dream,’ both Taiwanese and Tibetan seem to have different dreams from China's.


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