Olympic torch row may be solved soon

The China Post staff and agencies

Taiwan and China could soon reach a compromise over a proposal on the controversial Olympic torch relay route, local media reported yesterday. “The root cause of the whole torch relay issue is not how it should go … to sum up, it could be solved by simply a slight change of some wording” to define the nature of the Taipei leg, told Tsai Chen-wei, chairman of the Chinese-Taipei Olympic Committee, to Taipei-based China Times. “It is not difficult for the two sides to settle the dispute, because when it comes down to it, it is only a matter of words, a matter of how you say it,” added Tsai. Taiwanese and Chinese authorities, currently engaged in ongoing negotiations, will hold the last talks at the end of August, Tsai said in the report. Taipei’s compromise is that it will no longer demand changing the the route, but will ask China to see Taipei as part of the overseas leg of the torch relay, continued the report. The last compromise of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee was on Aug. 6, when Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), referred to Taipei as “the 19 (overseas) cities plus Taipei, Hong Kong and Macau.”

At that time Taiwan rejected this solution, but it seems that Taipei has changed its mind and is ready to compromise and is instead proposing that when China mentions the overseas leg of the torch replay, it says “20 cities plus Hong Kong and Macau,” according to the daily. Last month, China unveiled the relay route for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, calling for the torch to come to Taipei from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Min City and go from Taipei to China’s special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Taiwan has called the proposed relay route as a challenge to its sovereignty, accusing China of claiming that arrival in Taipei would mark the start of the route’s “domestic” leg, and demanded the torch go from Taipei to a third country, like South Korea or Japan, before entering China. Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) spokesman Liu Te-hsun said the negotiations in which Taiwan would like to engage again with Beijing on the issue would not just involve “wording.” Liu noted that four prerequisites must be met before the torch relay can pass through Taiwan — namely, that both sides follow International Olympic Committee protocol, that there should be consent by Taiwan, that Taiwan’s sovereignty should not be downgraded, and that all relevant activities should be conducive to future interaction between the two sides. Stressing that Taiwan’s position has not changed in this regard, Liu said Taiwan hopes that the two sides can resume negotiations within the existing communication channels as soon as possible. Liu, however, declined to comment on whether Taiwan will drop its insistence that the Olympic torch enter and exit Taiwan via a country other than China. MAC officials said earlier this month that Taiwan rejected China’s proposal, because it violated a formal agreement reached between the two sides in 1989 that ensures that Taiwan has equal sporting status to China by referring to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei.”