Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Torch is Passed

The Taipei Times put out a hard-hitting editorial on the vapid International Olympic Committee and the torch situation:

The disingenuousness of the International Olympic ommittee (IOC) is breathtaking. To allow China to host an Olympics at all should have been warning enough; for IOC officials to now feign surprise at Taiwan's unhappiness with its proposed torch route suggests that there are still many feeble words and actions to come from them in the months to come.

But it's hard to imagine more feeble words than IOC officials pleading for Taiwan to separate politics from sport, apparently oblivious of the IOC's employment of the Olympics in Games past to heal political differences between states.

After abusing the IOC, the editorial goes on to observe:

The presence of the torch was always going to be "political"; the real question was how the politics was going to be employed and whether an understanding was ever possible between Taipei and Beijing.

The fact that the Olympic torch's journey within Taiwan was restricted to the metropolis of Taipei suggests that the Chinese and the IOC took the ridiculous name of "Chinese Taipei" all too literally. If there had been a sincere attempt to coax Taiwanese into the spirit of the Games, the torch route might have been able to go elsewhere -- Kaohsiung, the east coast, rural Taiwan, an Aboriginal village or two. Instead, the whole process smacked of tokenism -- and possibly a kickback to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which holds power in the capital.

It is difficult to see how a compromise can be reached without either side backing down, and neither side will be inclined to do so.

But if by some miracle the torch ends up on Taiwanese soil, no one who cares about Taiwan's freedom from Chinese violence could deny the right of people to protest its presence. And what a circus would result, with images beamed around the world (but censored in China): groups of colorfully dressed protesters from all around the country, on every street corner, on every sidewalk, hanging out of windows -- all holding big buckets of water.

One thing is for sure -- when Taiwan gave up the torch, it gave up a great chance to stage a huge protest over China's treatment of Taiwan, and treatment of its own people, as the torch transited the island -- with a large international audience. One reason that China might have sent the torch through Taipei is to minimize that possibility, since the capital is a stronghold of the pro-China parties.

UPDATE: Wulingren notes in the comments below:

It is interesting what the Chinese official said about not injecting politics into a sporting event, because Chen Chu said the same thing last week about China. She was complaining about the fact that Kaohsiung's deputy mayor was denied a visa to go to China. He was planning to attend a sports conference in Beijing to promote the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung.


channing said...

I think the ROC government passed on a big chance to stage a pro-Taiwan rally by refusing the torch.

On the other hand, they just saved themselves a huge amount of trouble from a potential standoff had the torch transited through Taipei.

As usual, Taiwan didn't lose much except for international attention. What else is new?

MJ Klein said...

i feel that i have to speak up here.

rallys, protests, etc., are bad for Taiwan. all of them. they do absolutely no good, and a world of harm.

let's use this torch issue as an example. let's say that Taiwan allowed the torch to go thru Taipei and thousands of people rallyed, protested or whatever you want to call it.

1. the international community couldn't care less. that is a fact. sure, they talk about Taiwan, but words mean nothin when the sheer volume of misinformation is so overwhelming.

2. China will air their domestic media package, showing happy Taiwanese people passing along the torch in their Taiwan Province (thanks to the local guys who will provide them with what they require).

3. China will air their international media package to everyone outside of their homeland, showing demonstrations and "anarchy" (Michael, remember the phrase "too much freedom? that wasn't an off the cuff question). they will show the world how the Taiwanese people aren't happy with their government and that China should "save" Taiwan before it implodes.

all of those protests, Red Ant, whatever - you name it, get the same treatment by China. they play Taiwan like a fucking violin.

no, the correct call was just what the government did - refuse to play with them on their playing field.

its my opinion that an entirely new tactic has to be employed when dealing with China. however, even though i believe i know what it should be based upon, no one is consulting me. but it still bothers me to see shit happening that was clearly avoidable. at least this time, Taiwan came off like a mature state with a reasonable response to an underhanded ploy. China can stuff that torch right up there with the pandas....