Beijing warns Taiwan to keep athletes safe
Kristine Kwok and Will Clem
If you want our athletes, you'd better protect them. That was the message from the mainland's Olympics chief to Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu in Beijing yesterday.
Ms Chen - a member of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party - was on the second day of her 'ice-breaking' mainland tour to promote the World Games, to be held in her city in July.
Liu Peng, president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said the mainland was prepared to send 100 athletes to the games - the largest team the mainland has entered in the event. However, he also issued Ms Chen with a warning.
'We are very concerned about safety guarantees for our competitors,' Mr Liu said. 'If our competitors are obstructed, attacked or provoked during sports events, I am sure that is the sort of thing the Kaohsiung World Games does not wish to see. We hope that Kaohsiung can impose measures to strengthen safety for competitors.'
Ms Chen responded that it was the 'host city's responsibility' to ensure the safety of all competitors.
'We guarantee to provide 100 per cent security for competitors and to make it virtually watertight,' she said.
She invited Mr Liu to visit her city during the games, a contest of 31 non-Olympic sports. However he said that he would need to check his schedule, which was 'nearly full' in July.
'If I can find the time for it, then I will definitely attend,' Mr Liu said.
Ms Chen is the highest-ranking DPP official to visit the mainland while in public office. Her visit has sparked controversy at home, where party hardliners have criticised the move as undermining Taiwanese sovereignty.
Ms Chen has played down the political significance of the visit, stressing that it is limited to promotional efforts for the games.
'I work for the interest of all Kaohsiung citizens, which does not contradict my own political standing,' she said.
However, she has also been quoted as saying she is bringing 'new voices from Taiwan to the mainland, which previously heard mostly from the ruling Kuomintang'.
DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen has also spoken up for her, saying the party does not have a 'fundamental problem with exchanges' and that a mayor is 'obligated to go everywhere to invite people to visit that city'.
Games of their lives
The number of athletes the mainland is willing to send to the World Games in Kaohsiung: 100