Taiwan accuses China of bullying over World Cup name change

President Uhuru Kenyatta receive FIFA Trophy from Juliano Belletti a former Brazilian player at state House Nairobi. May 26, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Taiwan accused China of bullying on Monday after World Cup organizers in Qatar again changed the reference to Taiwanese visitors applying for an identity card that doubles as a visa to list their nationality as “Chinese Taipei”.

All World Cup card holders must apply for the Hayya card used to identify fans, which also serves as their Qatar visa, but the Taiwan government expressed concern after discovering that the online application system did not mention the island.

It was later listed as “Taiwan, Province of China”, terms that angered the Taiwan government and many of its people in equal measure, and then changed back to just “Taiwan”, gaining praise from the government in Taipei.

However, the list has changed again, to “Chinese Taipei”, the name Taiwan uses to compete in most international sporting events such as the Olympics to avoid political problems.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed its “appreciation” for the Qatari government’s commitment to “the one-China principle and its handling of relevant matters in line with the usual practices of international sports events.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned the move, saying the organizers were “unable to firmly reject the interference of improper political forces.”

It added that China had engaged in “bullying”, and had “repeatedly and flagrantly used the fictitious ‘one-China’ principle to continue to belittle Taiwan internationally and create the false impression that Taiwan belongs to China.”

There was no immediate response to requests from the World Cup organizers or the Qatari government communication office for comment.

Taiwan’s democratically elected government rejects China’s claims to sovereignty, saying that only the island’s residents can decide their own future.

China, in its quest to assert its sovereign claims, has increased pressure on foreign countries and companies to refer to Taiwan as part of China in official documents and websites, in terms such as “Taiwan, the province of China,” or “Taiwan, China.”

Taiwan has never participated in the World Cup finals and was eliminated in the second round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 tournament last year after losing all eight matches.

There are no diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Qatar, which, like most countries, only recognize the government of China.