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Intellasia East Asia News – Divers from 10 countries defy Taiwan flag ban

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A Japanese diving association along with athletes from 10 countries requested their national flags be removed from the leader board in support of their Taiwanese counterparts after the Taiwan flag was suddenly banned late in the competition.

Five Taiwan freedivers participated in the 27th AIDA Depth World Championship, which was held in Limassol, Cyprus from September 20-30 with 150 athletes from 40 countries. However, on Tuesday (September 28), the event’s organiser International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) suddenly yanked the Taiwan flag from the leader board on its live-streaming broadcast without warning.

Taiwan diver Mia Hou soon found herself to be the only one of 44 competitors that day with their nationality left blank. AIDA International President Alexandru Russu apologised to the Taiwan team for the sudden change, explaining the that decision was made after live streaming was blocked in China and said there was no plan to restore the flag.

The team was left with two options: either opt for the Chinese Taipei banner used in Olympic events or leave the flag blank. The team decided to go with the latter.

AIDA Japan then issued a post on Facebook requesting the event’s organisers to also remove Japan’s flag from the live YouTube feed. The Japanese organisation wrote that as AIDA International has been unable to resolve the issue “this is the only small resistance we can make against the horrible political interference.”

The group stated that it could not overlook the fact that “only Taiwan is disadvantaged.” AIDA Japan expressed the wish to “share the pain with Taiwan” and vowed to “not allow politics to interfere in our sport.”

Subsequently, athletes from Russia, the US, Croatia, the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, France, Germany, and Slovenia also requested their flags be removed to show solidarity with their Taiwanese competitors. In response, Hou on Thursday (September 30) uploaded a post on Facebook thanking the many countries for their support.

According to an official statement by AIDA posted on Facebook on Wednesday (September 29), the Taiwanese flag was “modified” after live streaming had been blocked in China, halting the broadcast of live results for “400,000+ viewers.” The organisation stated that there was “no ideal solution,” thanked the Taiwanese team for being “very kind and understanding,” and denied that there had been any “external pressure” in making the decision.

On September 30, AIDA issued a terse apology to Taiwan on its website for the incident. It claimed that the halt of the stream by Chinese authorities “took us by surprise” and claimed its staff was “not prepared to deal with it on such short notice.”

The organisation pledged that “we will learn from our mistakes” and suggested that it will run different streams in the future to prevent the problem from occurring again. It added that it will also discuss the matter and field questions at the next assembly video conference and expressed its hope that it can “put this incident behind us.”

However, AIDA Taiwan on Thursday issued a formal protest on its Facebook page condemning the organiser for failing to discuss or inform it about the change, the “reckless” method of dealing with Chinese censorship, and it warned that it sets a bad precedent that could lead to the flags of other countries being banned as well. It then urged leaders of the group to reveal their decision-making process, pass a binding resolution to prevent such actions in the future, and provide a formal apology to AIDA Taiwan and Taiwanese athletes.


Category: Taiwan

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