TAIPEI, Taiwan (AFP) — Taiwan will not send an official delegation to the opening or closing of the Beijing Winter Olympics due to China’s strict pandemic controls and flight disruptions, the self-ruled island’s governing body for sport said.
The decision comes at a time when relations between Beijing and Taipei are at their lowest in decades with China ramping up military and economic pressure under President Xi Jinping.
Taiwan’s Sports Administration said late Friday that its 15-member delegation will not attend the opening and closing ceremonies due to “pandemic prevention and flight schedules”.
Its tiny winter team, which includes four athletes, will be flying to China from the United States, Switzerland and Taiwan, the administration added in a statement.
“According to the event’s pandemic prevention and entry policy, flights have been adjusted and delayed, and not all could arrive in Beijing by the opening ceremony on Feb. 4.”
Authoritarian China regards democratic Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if needed.
Record numbers of Chinese jets are now buzzing around the island’s air defence zone and the People’s Liberation Army has staged regular drills simulating an invasion.
China has cut off official communication with the government of President Tsai Ing-wen since 2016 because she regards Taiwan as an already sovereign nation.
The last time Beijing hosted an Olympics in 2008, relations with Taiwan were much warmer and a large delegation visited.
Taiwan and Beijing have argued for decades about representation at the Olympics.
Since 1981, Taiwan has had an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to compete under the name Chinese Taipei.
It was a compromise that would allow Taiwan to compete in sports without presenting itself as a sovereign nation.
© Agence France-Presse