Taiwan’s Paralympians said Tuesday they were forced to change team badges on their uniforms in Rio after protests by China, the latest sign of worsening ties with Beijing.
The team said they were informed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) about China‘s objection to their team emblem two weeks before departure for the games, even though it was approved by the IPC in 2003.
Instead they were asked to use an altered badge which looked more like the symbol of Taiwan’s Beijing-friendly opposition party, the Kuomintang.
“China requested the change from the national emblem to the (Kuomintang) party emblem,” team leader Chen Li-chou said during a reception hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen.
“We can feel that our international situation is grave from this incident.”
Although Taiwan is self-ruling, China still considers it part of its territory awaiting reunification. Names, titles, emblems and flags used by Taiwanese at international events are particularly sensitive.
Taiwan is forced to compete under the Olympic flag as Chinese Taipei, and does the same at other international sports competitions.
Local media described the Paralympics badge incident as suppression by China, and the disclosure triggered anger online.
“The Chinese communists shouldn’t get to decide international sports rules. It is bullying like this that makes Taiwanese people dislike them and not want anything to do with them,” read one comment on the news website Storm Media.
The KMT government was toppled by Tsai’s Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party at elections in January and since then ties with China have become increasingly frosty.
In June China axed a visit by a popular Taiwanese children’s choir after they sang the national anthem at Tsai’s inauguration.
There has also been a spate of deportations of Taiwanese fraud suspects to Beijing rather than Taipei by countries that do not recognise the island.