The Yomiuri Shimbun (MCT)
The flag of Taiwan
The announcement that the torch for the 2008 Beijing Games will not pass through Taiwan came after China and Taiwan failed to resolve their differences about whether Taiwanese would be allowed to raise or wave the flag Taiwan claims as its own.
Taipei regarded as a problem Beijing's demand that it strictly control people's actions along the proposed Olympic torch route and tell people which flag they should wave.
Beijing has tolerated Taiwan's use of the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag, a design agreed on by both the Chinese and Taiwan governments, but it has refused to recognize a Taiwanese flag.
Taiwan therefore refused Beijing's demands to control people's actions along the proposed route, saying that because Taiwan is a democratic nation and its citizens have freedom of expression, it is impossible to regulate flag waving or singing.
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian criticized Beijing on Friday saying: "China demanded our national flag not be shown and our national anthem not be sung. I can never accept this."
Chen's administration has taken the stance that China and Taiwan are separate nations. By refusing entrance of the torch, Chen apparently demonstrated the firmness of his stance, treating China's flag demand as interference in Taiwan's sovereign affairs.
His forthright position was adopted because of public opinion in Taiwan, which largely holds that no compromise should be made over Taiwan's national flag.
According to a opinion survey released Sept. 9 by Taiwan newspaper Apple Daily, about 67 percent of respondents said they would not want the Olympic torch to come to Taiwan if the waving of the national flag was banned.
The Kuomintang, Taiwan's main opposition party, while more conciliatory toward China than the ruling party, also expressed antipathy toward Beijing over its demands.
As Taiwan is scheduled to hold a presidential election in six months, relations with China are a sensitive issue. Thus both the ruling and opposition parties have found it difficult to accommodate Beijing's demands.
Beijing considers Taipei has taken bold steps toward independence from China, such as Taipei's campaign for U.N. membership. Thus the atmosphere at the China-Taiwan talks to decide the torch route were tense.
The breakdown of talks over the Olympic torch's passage through Taiwan likely will result in stagnation in China-Taiwan relations until the presidential election in March.
The organizing committee for the Beijing Olympics carried a statement Friday condemning Taiwan's decision on its official Web site.
"The Taiwan authorities violated the stipulations of the Olympic Charter, flagrantly making the torch relay in Taipei a political issue," the statement said.
"The responsibility . . . totally lies with the Taiwan authorities," it added.
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