TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – As the campaign to organize a public referendum on the usage of “Chinese Taipei” heads into its final stretch, the campaigners are making a last minute press to collect signatures, which seems to be working successfully.
On Aug. 9 the campaign only had 50 percent of the required signatures, and needed to make haste to meet the required 282,000 signatures before the deadline of Aug. 29. The count on Aug. 9 stood at only 140,000.
However by the evening of Aug. 13, thanks to petitioners on the street, and the mail-in signatures, the campaign had successfully increased the signature count by 40,000, averaging 10,000 new signatures each day over the weekend through Monday.
As of Aug. 13, the petition had 180,000 signatures, or 68 percent of the required number.
If the campaigners keep up their pace through the next two weeks, then the signatures should reach 280,000 in approximately 10 days or sooner, putting them five days ahead of the deadline.
In an attempt to dissuade the Team Taiwan petitioners from their task, the Chinese Taipei Olympians Association (CTOA) issued statement on Monday Aug. 13 rejecting the proposal for the referendum and the name change.
The organization which represents former Taiwanese Olympians appealed to the authority of the International Olympic Commission and the Olympic Charter to plead with the public not to attempt the referendum.
The fretful statement also raised concern that future athletes may not be able to compete in the Olympics if Taiwan were to follow through with a unilateral decision of the public to scrap the “Chinese Taipei” title.
The chairman of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC), Thomas Tsai, also weighed in on the referendum. He was quoted by Taipei Times as saying:
“Taiwan is neither a UN member nor an ICRC member. ‘Chinese Taipei’ is not a perfect name, but at least that is the name stated in our agreement with the IOC, which is valid. If we want to change the name of our sports team, either Taiwan needs to join the UN or we need to change the title of our country.”
The IOC has also proactively stated that it will not accept the results of a referendum that demands a name change by the Taiwanese populace, preemptively denouncing a country’s motion towards self-determination. The IOC also tacitly supported Beijing's recent maneuvering to revoke Taichung’s right to host the East Asian Youth Games.
For many, the referendum may seem like a wasted effort, or simply the wrong approach to take on the matter, and would just be asking for trouble.
However, for the campaigners, those who have signed the petition, and those who believe a nation’s dignity is more important than international sporting competitions, the effort remains worth the trouble, and represents an opportunity to force the government, China, the IOC, and the international community to take note of Taiwan’s situation and the will of her people.
Regardless of the detractors, and the premature rejection by the IOC, CTOC, and CTOA, of a referendum that hasn't even been approved for a vote yet, it remains that the democratic thing to do is to let the people decide.
It could well be that the people of Taiwan prefer the designation of “Chinese Taipei.”
For those who would like to find out, information on how to sign the petition is available on the Team Taiwan Facebook page. Those who would like to sign the petition can do so at any of the locations marked on this petition map, or may download this petition form (PDF) and mail it in with their signature.