07/11/2008, 00.00
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Controversy explodes over Taiwan "Olympic" name

China suggests calling it "China's Taipei", to show that it is part of China. But Taipei is protesting, and threatening to take action.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) - There is controversy between Beijing and Taipei about what the athletes of the island will be called at the Olympics.

According to an agreement between the two sides, going back to 1989, the official name of Taiwan at the International Olympic Committee is "Zonghua Taibei", "Chinese Taipei", but the Chinese media call it "Zhongguo Taibei", "China's Taipei". In Chinese, Zonghua Minguo means "Republic of China", the historical name of Taiwan. The name used in the Chinese media stems from the interpretation that Taiwan is merely a province of China, all the more so in that Taipei has committed not to use the Taiwanese national flag in the Olympic ceremonies.

Last July 9, Yang Yi, spokesman of the Beijing office for Taiwanese affairs, said that both translations, "Zhonghua Taibei" and "Zhongguo Taibei", are correct. Zhongguo means "Middle Kingdom", and is the name for China in Chinese.

The response from Taiwan has been immediate. Yesterday, Henry Chen Ming-cheng, spokesman of the Taiwanese foreign ministry, called "entirely unacceptable" this definition that expresses the idea that Taiwan is part of China.

The controversy is reigniting domestic problems as well, after Ma Ying-jeou, a proponent of rapprochement with Beijing, was chosen as president in the last election.

Cheng Wen-tsan, spokesman for the Democratic Progressive Party now in the opposition, says that this is "just wishful thinking", in that "China wants to suppress [the independence of] Taiwan".

Now Tsai Chen-wei, head of the Taiwanese Olympic Committee, is threatening to protest with the IOC. Meanwhile, 76 athletes of the island are dreaming of medals, hopefully gold medals, like the two (the first for the country) won at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, for men's and women's Taekwondo. That would let them play their national anthem for all of China.

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