Taiwan's National Flag Omitted in Official Twitter Posts of Olympic Medal Winners

By Patrick Goodenough | July 27, 2021 | 4:29am EDT
Lo Chia-ling of Taiwan celebrates after winning the bronze medal in taekwondo in the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. She is waving not Taiwan’s national flag but the IOC-approved one for the so-called ‘Chinese Taipei’ team.  (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Lo Chia-ling of Taiwan celebrates after winning the bronze medal in taekwondo in the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. She is waving not Taiwan’s national flag but the IOC-approved one for the so-called ‘Chinese Taipei’ team. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – For more than four decades, the International Olympic Committee has labeled Taiwan “Chinese Taipei” in deference to Beijing’s communist rulers, but the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have gone a step further, choosing not to include Taiwan’s national flag when highlighting a Taiwanese medal-winner’s achievement on Twitter.

Multiple times a day, the official Tokyo 2020 Twitter feed honors medal winners from around the world, and almost without exception features a small national flag alongside the name of each athlete or team.

But alongside the names of Taiwan’s medal winners – four and counting – no such symbol of national pride appears.

(The only other country to be treated similarly is Russia – because it is officially banned from the Olympics until 2022 due to the controversy over state-sponsored doping. Russia athletes are still competing, but as the Russian Olympic Committee, and under a flag contrived for the occasion rather than the Russian national flag.)

So after a Taiwanese judoka won the silver medal in his category on Saturday, Tokyo 2020 posted a tweet listing the four winners – gold, silver, and two bronze – with the flags of Japan, Kazakhstan and France. Alongside the name of Taiwan’s Yang Yung Wei, however, was a blank space.

Similarly, when the Taiwanese men’s archery team won the silver on Monday, the South Korean gold team and Japanese bronze team were both honored with their nation’s flags, but not the second-placed team from “Chinese Taipei.”

(Image: Twitter/@Tokyo2020)
(Image: Twitter/@Tokyo2020)

The anomalies drew some sharp criticism on Twitter, with numerous users pointedly posting images and photos of Taiwan’s red, blue and white national flag.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was among those who picked up on the issue.

“No diplomatic location or international forum where our Taiwanese allies are participating should be off-limits to the Taiwanese flag – and that includes U.S. government soil, where the Biden administration has reimposed an Obama-era ban,” he tweeted.

The latter reference evidently pointed to a recent White House decision to delete a tweet it had posted earlier highlighting countries that had received COVID-19 vaccines from the U.S. – because it had “mistakenly” included Taiwan’s flag alongside its name.

At the Tokyo Games opening ceremony last week, Taiwan’s 68-strong national team entered the stadium introduced by the announcer as “Chinese Taipei,” under an IOC-approved flag that features the Olympic rings and a white sun within a five-petaled flower design.

But Japan’s NHK national broadcaster used the word “Taiwan” – in Japanese – when referring to the delegation, prompting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organ Global Times to accuse Japan of “dirty political tricks.”

Taiwan's national flag. (Photo by Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images)
Taiwan's national flag. (Photo by Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images)

The distinctive treatment of Taiwan at the games has its roots in the Chinese civil war that ended in 1949 with the nationalist Republic of China (ROC) government fleeing to the island after being defeated by Mao Zedong’s CCP, which established the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

China views the thriving democracy of 23 million people as a rebellious province that will eventually be reunited into the “one China,” a stance backed by most of the international community.

In 1971, the U.N. General Assembly voted to expel Taiwan and hand the “China” seat at the U.N. to the PRC.

But at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Taiwan had insisted on using its ROC name and flag, igniting drama when the Canadian government barred the Taiwanese from entering.

Three years later, in a bid to avoid a recurrence at the upcoming 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, the IOC voted in late 1979 for a resolution stating that Taiwanese athletes would only be allowed to compete as “Chinese Taipei,” with a made-up flag to be approved by the IOC. Chinese athletes would compete as “China,” under the Chinese national flag.

Early that same year, President Carter had officially recognized the PRC and cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

One factor in the IOC’s decision was said at the time to have been a letter from the State Department, saying that while the decision was the IOC’s to make, the U.S. government as a result of its severing of ties with Taiwan did “not recognize as symbols of national sovereignty the flag and anthem of the Republic of China.”

Taiwan bitterly opposed the IOC decision and unsuccessfully contested it in court in Switzerland, where the IOC is headquartered. In 1981 it reluctantly accepted the condition in order to compete in future games.

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