Athens Paralympics snub angers Taipei

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 12:00am

Taiwan's first lady, Wu Shu-chen, was told by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) yesterday that she would not be recognised as the Taiwanese team's leader at the Athens 2004 event.

The revelation has prompted criticism from the island, with officials vowing to lodge a protest against what they called an 'abrupt' decision.

'If the IPC bows to the evil pressure to suppress us, we would never accept this. We would do all we could to fight until the end,' James Huang Chih-fang, deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office, was quoted as saying in Athens by the Central News Agency after the IPC decision.

The semi-official agency said the Taiwanese delegation at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, which open on Friday, would shortly send a protest letter to the IPC and ask to meet high-level committee officials.

On Monday, IPC spokeswoman Miriam Wilkens said the Taiwanese team leader should be Linda Chen Lee-chou, president of the Chinese-Taipei Paralympic Committee, and Ms Wu, as the committee's honorary president, could only be considered a guest of the team.

But senior Taiwanese officials argued that the IPC had long known that Ms Wu was an honorary member. They argued that when the Chinese-Taipei committee applied to declare her as the team leader, the IPC recognised her status.

Mr Huang, who accompanied the first lady to Athens, said other nations' team leaders were not the paralympics committee chiefs, including those from New Zealand and Australia.

'Why is there such a discriminatory treatment? Does that mean we [Taiwan] are a second-rate member?' the news agency quoted him as saying. Ms Chen reiterated that she would not be team leader and she considered the first lady as the head of the team.

In Taipei, Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien lashed out at the mainland for applying pressure on the IPC, saying the move would only further displease Taiwanese people and alienate them from supporting the mainland.

In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry refused to comment yesterday.