Taipei's leaders stand firm as Olympics officials warn of becoming a 'laughing stock' The Taiwanese government's insistence last night that the Olympic torch could not to enter the island's territory on its route to next year's Games in Beijing appears to have divided the island's sports officials from its government. At issue is the island's political sovereignty, which the ruling, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party has insisted must be upheld. Nevertheless, the island's sports authorities had hoped Beijing and Taipei could work out a solution by allowing the Olympic torch to enter and leave Taiwan by third countries. This concession seemed to have been made by Beijing, with the torch planned to arrive in Taipei from Vietnam and leave from there for Hong Kong and Macau. Before last night's announcement, Chen Kuo-yi, secretary-general of the Chinese-Taipei Olympic Committee, said there was a good chance that Taiwan would be included in the torch relay route. Beijing Games officials had also said the issue had been settled. Sports officials also feared that Taiwan would become an international laughing stock if it refused to allow the torch in. They said politics should not be allowed to mix with sport. But strong pressure from the pro-independence camp, that the torch should not enter or leave the island via Hong Kong or Macau, let alone the mainland, has prevailed on the grounds that including Taiwan on the torch's route would create the impression that Taiwan was a province or territory of the mainland. Yesterday, before Bocog's announcement in Beijing last night, the DPP's acting chairman, Trong Chai Tung-jung, said : 'Being Taiwanese, we must uphold the independent sovereignty of Taiwan and that Taiwan and China are countries on each side of the Taiwan Strait. 'It would be best for the torch not to come to Taiwan. If it does, it should come and leave Taiwan through a third country, not the mainland, Hong Kong or Macau.' His comments echoed a recent statement by Chiou I-jen, secretary-general of the Presidential Office, who noted that there was no way to accept a plan for the torch relay to pass through Hong Kong or Xiamen on its way to and from Taiwan as it would 'mislead others into thinking Taiwan is part of China'. Wu Chin-tsai, secretary-general of the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, said Taiwan would welcome the torch only if the island's interests were upheld. 'As a member of the International Olympic Committee, we certainly welcome the Olympic torch. Hosting such a relay would be our honour,' he said, but he stressed four principles must be upheld. The principles are: following the IOC charter, gaining the consent of Taiwan, respecting Taiwan's sovereignty and improving cross-strait interactions.