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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Olympics Torch shunned

Taiwan shuns Olympic Torch on principle

Taiwan’s decision to reject the Olympic torch provoked an outcry at home friday as the opposition and the media accused the government of letting politics interfere with sport.
Beijing Games organizers announced thursday that the flame would visit the island after sweeping through the cities of Pyongyang and Ho Chi Minh, before moving on to Hong Kong and Macau.

President Chen Shui-bian told reporters on Friday that relevant authorities deemed the plan unacceptable because “Taiwan’s status as a sovereignty country cannot be dwarfed.”
But opposition politicians were quick to condemn the decision.

“This is a rare opportunity to put Taipei and Taiwan in the international stage. We really regret losing this opportunity,” said Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party.

Presidential hopeful and former KMT chief Ma Ying-jeou blamed the government for rejecting the torch on political grounds.

“The [ruling] Democratic Progressive Party is going to hold its primary and now comes the decision that is against the mainstream opinions in the international community,” Ma said.
“It shows the government has little confidence in itself. The Republic of China [Taiwan’s formal name] is a sovereign country and we need not be afraid of being belittled,” he added.

KMT lawmaker Huang Chih-hsiung, a silver medalist in tae kwon do at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said the DPP should take the blame if the International Olympic Committee revoke Taipei’s membership as a punishment.

“Isn’t the government going too far in driving away the torch and denying itself in order to manipulate the elections?” it asked.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since they split in 1949 at the end of a civil war but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification - AFP.