Taiwan announced on Tuesday that none of its officials will visit China for the Winter Olympics, but Taiwanese athletes plan to participate as normal – even as Beijing appears set to take the gold medal in the 100 Kilometer Penetration of Airspace Dash by sending swarms of warplanes to menacingly orbit Taiwan.
The Taiwanese Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) suggested it was not keeping its officials home in a diplomatic boycott of China’s human rights abuses – like the one alleged organized (and violated) by the Biden administration – but rather because Taiwan is sending only a handful of athletes, and its government emissaries have not been welcome in the past.
“Considering the limited number of participants and the previous precedent that our side’s officials were often absent, no official representatives will be sent,” the MAC said.
“We call on this year’s organizers to abide by the ‘Olympic Charter’ and not use political factors to interfere with the competition and suppress and belittle our side. Relevant government units will also be prepared to respond to various emergencies,” the statement added.
The MAC did not describe what sort of “emergencies” it had in mind.
Taiwanese athletes usually register for international sporting events under the name “Chinese Taipei,” a moniker chosen to avoid angering Beijing, which insists Taiwan must not be treated as a separate country.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted a senior Taiwanese official who said his government is concerned China might force its athletes to compete alongside the team from Hong Kong, “downgrading” Taiwan’s status by treating it as just another “special administrative region” of China.
The SCMP noted Taiwan is a sub-tropical island with little general interest in winter sports, although public enthusiasm for the Olympics perked up after the Taiwanese team won its most medals ever at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.
Taiwan anticipated sending no more than six athletes to the Beijing Winter Games, plus a small group of coaches, doctors, and support personnel.
As of Wednesday, only four Taiwanese athletes have qualified for the Winter Games: speed skater Huang Yu-ting, skiers Lee Wen-yi and Ho Ping-jui, and women’s luge singles competitor Lin Sing-rong. Two others have until Saturday to qualify.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has firmly insisted Beijing agreed to let Taiwan participate, without special humiliations, when it secured the 2022 Winter Games in 2015.
The Beijing Winter Olympics arrive during a season of heightened tensions between Taiwan and China. On Sunday night, China conducted its largest incursion into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) this year. The operation involved 39 Chinese warplanes, including a nuclear-capable bomber and advanced electronic-warfare fighters.