TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Two Taiwanese freedivers were able to compete under the name "Taiwan" this week after overturning a decision by an international diving association to list them as athletes from "Chinese Taipei, Taiwan."
In a Facebook post uploaded on Thursday (May 26), freediver Huang Ming-chun (黃明峻) wrote that late on May 18, the night before their scheduled events in the Caribbean Cup freediving world series, he and his compatriot Lien Lin-lan (連林嵐) discovered "Taiwan" had been changed to "Chinese Taipei, Taiwan." Infuriated, Huang wrote a note on the bulletin board where competitors' schedules were posted which read: "We are Taiwan, not Chinese Taipei Taiwan. Thank you."
Huang wrote that after he discussed the matter with Lien that night, they decided to protest the change by staging a DNS (Did Not Start) and not compete in the annual freediving event, which was being held on the Honduran island of Roatan from May 17-24. They then left another note which stated: "Strongly protest! Ming and LinLan will DNS today for the protest changing our country from Taiwan to Chinese Taipei Taiwan."
At 6 a.m. on May 19, the organizer expressed the hope that the two would still compete and pledged to work with the International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) on solving the problem. However, a games official said the athletes could not list "Taiwan" as their nationality if they wanted their results registered by AIDA and that they would have to enter a blank to get their results recorded by the organization.
The official also claimed he had asked the president of AIDA and "Chinese Taipei, Taiwan" was the name agreed by AIDA headquarters, AIDA Taiwan, and China. However, Huang refuted this claim by saying, "This is not a fact, Taiwan did not agree, the Chinese government is using 700 AIDA freediving instructors (in China) to threaten AIDA. If they do not comply, the Chinese government will make these 700 AIDA coaches illegal in China."
Huang and Lin insisted on competing under the name "Taiwan" and were willing to forgo the registration of their results with AIDA. Lien then asked the official to include the following statement with their results: "Because the Taiwanese athletes chose to compete under their Taiwanese nationality in the AIDA competition, they were punished and could not be ranked on AIDA's official website."
However, the official refused and said, "I'm just a judge, I just certify the performance of the athletes. It's not the judge's responsibility to determine nationality."
In the end, after many discussions, officials agreed to allow Huang and Lien to compete under the name "Taiwan." Huang said that many fellow foreign competitors and staff members were pleased to see they were able to participate in the competition.
According to Huang, "When we dived, everyone shouted Taiwan! Taiwan! Taiwan!" Huang ended up taking second place in the 63-meter Constant Weight Without Fins event, breaking Taiwan's national record.
For his part, Lien broke three national records in the following three events: the Free Immersion, the Constant Weight with Mono Fins, and the Constant Weight with Bi Fins.
On Thursday, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that it was aware of the incident and kept in contact with Taiwan AIDA to provide assistance. It praised the "unremitting efforts" of the Taiwanese competitors in "firmly safeguarding the dignity of the country."
MOFA stated that it was "deeply gratified" with the result and congratulated the competitors on their achievements. The ministry condemned AIDA's initial decision to change the name of the country at the behest of China during the competition as "self-political censorship that has damaged the dignity of our country and the rights and interests of our athletes to participate in a fair competition."
Lien Lin-lan holds up Taiwan flag as Huang Ming-chun shows off his silver medal. (Huang Ming-chun photo)