Referendum to scrap 'Chinese Taipei' officially approved for vote in November

The campaign for the country to compete as Taiwan in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will proceed to a public vote

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan’s Central Election Committee (CEC) on Monday, Oct. 8, declared that the Team Taiwan petition for a referendum to scrap the use of “Chinese Taipei” in international sporting events ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, had reached the legal threshold of signatories necessary for a public vote with the Nov. 24 elections.

After a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, shortly after 3:00 p.m., the CEC officially announced that a public referendum in November on the use of “Chinese Taipei” will be put to a public vote.

If the referendum passes with more than 25 percent support of the eligible electorate, then the Taiwanese government will be obliged to heed public demand and address the issue in the coming year.

In accordance with legal procedure, the campaign for Team Taiwan submitted a petition with a total of 515,959 signatures on Sept. 3 for CEC review. The CEC was expected to make a formal declaration of acceptance or approval of the petition by Oct. 7.

On Oct. 8, the CEC finally announced that of the total signatures, 86,564 were rejected, while 429,395 were verified as valid, far exceeding the necessary number of signatures, 281,745.

The referendum question that will be put to voters in November is "Do you agree Taiwan should use the name 'Taiwan' to participate in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and all other international sporting events?" The question will be asked alongside six others that passed the threshold and were approved Tuesday by the CEC, reports CNA.


Team Taiwan campaign submitting the petition (CNA Image)

The announcement from the CEC today is likely to elicit a strong reaction from Beijing as well as the Olympic International Committee, which has previously said that it will not consider any name change, regardless of any referendum outcome, and the wishes of the Taiwanese people.

Hsu Hsiu-ling (許秀玲), the head of the international division of the Sports Administration under the Ministry of Education, told CNA that that if the referendum passes, the government will abide by the wishes of the people, and push the issue forward on the international stage, despite previous statements from the IOC.

Even if the referendum passes and the government accepts the result, there is still a possibility that the IOC, influenced by Beijing, will forbid Taiwan’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics as “Team Taiwan.”

Officials representing the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee in Taiwan have also voiced their disapproval of the referendum.

The Tsai administration, which is responsible for the amendments to the Referendum Act that drastically lowered the threshold of necessary signatures for a referendum, will be under a lot of pressure to respond affirmatively to the public’s demands if the measure receives enough votes in November.

Given the current deterioration of cross-strait relations, something as seemingly benign as the name of a sports team could potentially come with enormous consequences, if the government in Beijing declares the referendum or its result to be evidence of a move towards Taiwan’s international recognition as an independent nation.

For many Taiwanese who want to remain independent from Beijing’s authoritarian government, the referendum to scrap the label “Chinese Taipei” is certain to be viewed as an affirmation of Taiwan’s independence and its democratic government, as well as a rejection of the imperialist claim which Beijing has made over the country.

“Let Taiwan be Taiwan” is the campaign slogan for Team Taiwan. Campaigners are hopeful that the Taiwanese flag will fly alongside the flags of other nations in 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics.